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."