The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo who is serving a prison term of 11 years for having signed Charter 08, a document that calls for political reforms and civil liberties.
More than enough has been and will be written about Liu Xiaobo, by far more competent writers, but I nonetheless want to share my initial first thoughts that came to mind after I heard of the Nobel Committee’s decision:
1. Finally a laureate again who really deserves the prize.
It was about time that this prize went again to somebody who is risking his freedom and his life in a peaceful struggle against a dictatorship, trying to achieve the most basic steps to democracy and human rights. Liu Xiaobo is exactly the man for whom the Nobel Peace Prize was created.
In recent years, the prize had become a bit of a joke in my eyes, having been awarded to 3 politicians in a row that serve or served in Western democratic countries. As valuable as the contributions of Al Gore, Martti Ahtisaari and Barack Obama may have been, none of them has suffered any hardship, risk to life or constraint of liberty for the work they did. The same is true for other Nobel laureates of the past decade, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and Mohamed El-Baradei of whom you could say that they have merely been doing their (highly paid) jobs, or in the case of Jimmy Carter have simply been unable to come to terms with no longer being in office.
2. How to treat China?
Only days before the Nobel Committee’s announcement, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and agreed to “strengthen European-Chinese economic relations“.
The fate of Liu Xiaobo painfully reminds us: Any hope that we and people in China had that prosperity, growth and trade would somehow automatically lead to a more open society, to civil liberties and finally to democracy, has been crushed like a student underneath a Chinese tank. Conveniently for both sides, China’s leaders lied to the West about considering political reforms and Western politicians pretended to care about it. In reality, all they care about can be expressed in Euros, Dollars and Renminbi.
Our trade with China not only props up a Communist dictatorship, but because China in turn has very active trade relations with many other dictatorships in Asia and Africa, we indirectly prop up other regimes against which we purport to have sanctions in place. China is the hub through which we finance Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. If we want to use economic sanctions as leverage for our political goals (and I think we should), then China is the key.
(I wonder if this blog will fall prey to the Chinese internet censorship. If you can read this in China, please let us know!)