Vladimir Putin is the winner of the second annual Confucius Peace Prize — for orchestrating a "remarkable enhancement to the military might and political status of Russia." Really?! Putin is a lot of things. He's an iron-fisted leader, a lover of puppies and an all around action man. But he's hardly the agent for positive change that other nominees like Bill Gates, Jacob Zuma and Kofi Annan are. To give the man who jails his critics a trophy for being a champion of peace seems utterly outrageous, and we haven't ruled out the possibility that it's a lark. After all, Vladimir Putin's winning the award might be the least outrageous detail in the irony-laden saga behind China's answer to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Outrageous Detail No. 1: A Chinese rip-off of the Nobel Prize exists. We did a facepalm last year when we first learned of the Confucius Peace Prize. Beijing businessman Liu Zhiqin pushed back at the suggestion that the new prize was meant to replace the Nobel. "We should not compete, we should not confront the Nobel Prize, but we should try to set up another standard,'' he told the Associated Press who described the award as "cobbled together." However, the fact that the Confucius Prize sprung into reality only after the Nobel committee selected imprisoned Chinese dissident author Liu Xiaobo as the winner of the 2010 Peace Prize is suspect. Furthermore, China boycotted the Nobel ceremony, preventing Liu Xiaobo's entire family from traveling to Stockholm to accept the prize. Liu Zhiqin explained the reasoning of the new award, "The Nobel Prize is not a holy thing that we cannot doubt or question. Everyone has a right to dispute whether it's right or wrong."
Outrageous Detail No. 2: This year, China tried to boycott the Confucius Peace Prize. Oh, brother. After all that fuss last year, the Chinese Culture Ministry ordered the Confucius Peace Prize cancelled this year, a less-than-peculiar decision since the inaugural winner, former vice president of Taiwan Lien Chan, didn't even bother showing up to collect the award last year. "The award and a prize of 100,000 yuan ($15,000) in cash were instead given to a young girl who the organizers refused to identify," The Associated Press reports. However, the executive chairman of the award assured the press that the award would persevere with or without the government's approval. "We are a non-government organization and we will keep doing it to express our wishes within the law, no matter how hard it will be," said Liu Haofeng
Outrageous Detail No. 3: The Chinese press censored coverage of Putin's victory. Because the government and the press are closely aligned in China, it isn't a huge surprise that the press would act fishy around a supposedly banned award. Despite their usual affection for the Russian leader, Chinese papers balked at covering this year's Confucius Prize winner. "Both the Sina and NetEase news portals – two of the most popular news-aggregating websites in China – initially published the news, picking up a report from the website of the state-run Hubei Daily newspaper," The Wall Street Journal reports. "By Tuesday morning, however, both sides had taken the article down."
Outrageous Detail No. 4: Vladimir Putin won. Now that we've come full circle, let's dig into the deep irony that is the judges' final decision. "This April or May, Putin was against NATO's idea to bomb Libya and he appeared to the world in a peaceful manner," explained Qiao Damo, who actually nominated himself last year. "This year's peace prize was given to him because his act this year was outstanding in keeping world peace. … I feel the Noble Peace Prize has gone too far away from peace, and their standard has gone too far away from the essence of peace." And so this year's winner is the man who once said, "There is no such thing as a former KGB man." Slow clap.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.