China's Substitute Nobel a Disaster

Honoree fails to show up to ceremony

This article is from the archive of our partner .

China sought to take a strong stand against uppity Western nations with its alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, a protest of the prize committee's choosing to honor Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident currently incarcerated to opening urging his country to adopt political reforms. But in addition to looking cruel, and, some say, paranoid for not allowing even Liu's wife to attend the Nobel ceremony, China looked ridiculous for its "disastrous" Confucious Peace Prize, Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating writes. Why? For one, the honoree didn't even show up.

Former Taiwanese Vice President Lien Chan was supposed to take the honor, but he was absent, since no one thought to notify him of it, Keating writes. The prize committee instead opted to hand the trophy to a girl it called an "angel of peace." The debacle remains somewhat mysterious, Keating says. "The existence of the prize was first announced three weeks ago, though bizarrely, the organizers also claimed they had been preparing for it since 1988 and had been seeking 'Confucian wisdom.' The organizers at first claimed to have worked closely with the Chinese culture ministry, but the government claims to have nothing to do with the prize and it has received little coverage in state media."

The panel would not say the Confucious prize had anything to do with Liu; however, its official announcement "did take some gratuitous shots at puny little Norway." Here are some reactions to this latest and oddest episode in the whole China-Nobel saga:

  • Only Making Liu More Famous, Daniel Halper argues at The Weekly Standard. "China's puerile reaction underscores the importance of Xiabo receiving the award. With the award he'll get tomorrow, Xiabo will have a louder megaphone to advance the cause of human rights and democracy."
  • Is This a Sign of China's Strength or Weakness? Kevin Drum asks at Mother Jones. "My first instinct is weakness: no country with any real confidence in itself or its future would overreact this insanely. But then I think back to other rising powers and I'm not so sure. This kind of furious jingoism is actually pretty common among countries feeling their oats, isn't it? ... Overall, I think the Chinese have been playing their hand badly over the past few years, and it's going to bite them pretty hard the first time their economy starts to slow down a bit, which is almost inevitable sometime over the next decade or two."
  • Calls for a Diplomatic Snubbing, Conn Carroll argues at the American Enterprise Institute. "Next month General Secretary of the Communist Party Hu Jintao is coming to the United States, and a full 'state visit' treatment is expected, including a joint reviewing of U.S. troops and the usual ceremonial pomp and diplomatic protocol." But, he says, "China does not merit a state visit not only due to its continued poor record on human rights ... but because of its continued extraterritorial claims and the lack of responsible action as a stakeholder on such security issues as North Korea and Iran."
  • U.S. Shouldn't Feel Too High and Mighty Here  Mike Masnick's comments at TechDirt on the WikiLeaks situation don't mention the Nobel controversy, add an interesting counterpoint to the debate:
We've pointed out the general hypocrisy of US politicians calling for an end to internet censorship, while threatening Wikileaks at the same time. If you want to see some real irony, check out the fact that Senator Joe Lieberman, who has been the loudest voice in pushing for censorship of Wikileaks and of others in the press, just so happens to be a member of the 'Global Internet Freedom Caucus.' Yeah, except here in the US. ... What's really stunning, beyond just the sheer uselessness and impotence of the US government's response to Wikileaks, is the fact that it's inevitably destroying any moral high ground on claims of freedom and support of free speech we might have once had.
  • Yes, China, of Course They Were Trying to Embarrass You  "Beijing has protested bitterly that the committee's decision was politically motivated," The Telegraph notes. "Indeed it was," they judge, "just as the Soviet Union was in 1975 when the prize went to Andrei Sakharov, the dissident scientist. This year's recipient is certainly a more fitting one than last year's, when, farcically, it was awarded to Barack Obama.  ... We can only hope that when China reflects upon this rather shameful episode, it will understand that accepting criticism is the lot of the superpower, just as America has found."
  • China Got 19 Countries to Protest the Prize, The Telegraph adds. They include Afghanistan, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam. "Few on this list, it may be noticed, are fully functioning democracies and many are supposed friends of the West and recipients of its largesse."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.