China’s Nobel Peace Prize Dilemma is the World’s Dilemma

On December 10, 2010, the Nobel Peace Prize will be awarded to Liu Xiaobo in Oslo, Norway. Mr. Xiaobo will not be in attendance as he is serving a prison sentence for his criticism of the Chinese government. In his writings, he has called for government accountability, democratic elections and other values of freedom. Two days before the release of Charter 08 (a manifesto embracing the aforementioned ideals that he cooperatively worked on with others) he was imprisoned. This comes as no surprise given China’s notorious history of human rights policies. Nonetheless, it will truly be disappointing to know that the man being honored will be sitting in a prison cell for vocalizing basic, decent ideas.

Almost as disappointing are the recent announcements by 19 countries stating that they will decline to attend the ceremony. Among these countries are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Again, not too much of a surprise here with such a star-studded list. Of course, the decision to attend is much more complex than a yes or no. Many of these countries have an economic relationship with China and fear the consequences of upsetting it. These countries are not merely tip-toeing around China, frightened at what it might think if they were to acknowledge the prize. In fact, China has spoken. The Chinese government has overtly requested that outside countries not interfere with its internal affairs, and it has gone as far as warning other countries not to attend the ceremony as doing so would be an act of contempt towards it. Such a request serves as a pretty good litmus test for cowardice and as such, 19 countries have surfaced. These countries have decided that appeasing the Chinese government is more important than promoting and protecting basic human rights, and they have done so at the expense of their own integrity.

It is absurd for anyone to argue against or deny China’s emergence as a superpower. No global decision, whether it is monetary or military, can be made these days without including China. With its rising prominence, China demands and expects reverence from the rest of the world. These demands, however, cannot be met for any government with such an inexorable penchant to stifle peaceful criticism and dissidence from its own populace. This dogma is not exclusive to China but applies to any country that wishes to have legitimacy on the world stage. So in this sense, the Chinese government ought to realize that the rest of the world needs China, but China also needs the rest of the world.

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