Nobel peace prize hijacked by the West

Published: October 13, 2010
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Was the Chinese dissident really the best candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize?

This Nobel for Peace has all the ingredients of war.

A minority, handful of Western countries, enjoying media supremacy, ganged up on a rising non-Western power, while the world’s majority nations—Russia, Brazil, Latin America, Turkey, Pakistan, the Middle East, and even India, which fancies itself as counterweight to China, all ignored the politicised award.

Nobody had heard before about Liu Xiaobo, the recipient of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace. In 1989, he was one of dozens others jailed for organising so-called ‘pro-democracy’ demonstrations. At the time, China’s burgeoning population needed jobs, healthcare, housing and schooling. Had the demos succeeded, China would have spun out of control, pretty much like Russia did in the 1990s and Pakistan is doing these days. Luckily, Beijing had wise nationalist rulers at the time and China went on over the next two decades to become one of the most impressive rags-to-riches stories. It achieved all this without following the Western model of IMF/World Bank recipes and political science theories taught at Harvard and Oxford.

Mr. Liu never mattered

He was jailed for 20 months in 1989 and then left to lead a normal life. He watched Beijing grow into an international city. He once tried to organise a hunger strike to mark an anniversary of the events in 1989 and was stopped by Chinese authorities. Ordinary Chinese people never heard of him. Even the Chinese government never saw him as a threat. He was allowed freedom of movement, even the right to leave China, but not to indulge in activities meant to disturb social stability and peace in a country where people have been busy making money and improving the quality of their lives. Until recently, he was meeting American, British and Australian journalists in Beijing and giving interviews without any restrictions from Chinese authorities because, frankly, nobody cared.

This Nobel prize has been given to create a nuisance for China under the guise of “universal values.” It is starkly political and its aim is barely hidden. But the best part of this prize is its timing. While the prize was being awarded to a Chinese dissident, China’s premier Wen Jiabao was concluding a whirlwind tour of Europe that set the alarm bells ringing in Washington.

The Americans watched in shock as their European allies rolled out the red carpet for China. For example, in Italy, Europe’s most famous building, Rome’s Colosseum, was bathed in red as a salute to China. Italian leaders vowed to take bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2015.

In an address to the Greek parliament in Athens, Mr. Wen sounded a strong note of support for Europe’s economies.

I am convinced that a strong Europe is irreplaceable,” he said to Greek legislators on October 2. “China wants to promote and strengthen strategic links with the European Union.” He said China would “support the stability of the euro” and Beijing would “not reduce the amount of European bonds that are part of the Chinese foreign exchange reserves.

American officials were further antagonized to see the European Union ‘bowing’ to Chinese requests on media access during EU-China summit on 5 and 6 October. Just as Mr. Wen prepared to end his Europe tour and return home, Sweden’s Nobel Foundation came out with this surprise award for a Chinese citizen whose only claim to fame is opposing his government on idealistic grounds.

No brownie points here for guessing who benefited the most from these developments. The Russian media was the first to condemn the Nobel award as a ‘political tool.’

The timing of this anti-Chinese move is important. It comes at a time when the mainstream US media is full of anti-China demonization during mid-term election campaigning.

The American political website salon.com has noted this week that ‘Ad attacks on China cross the line’ during this campaign season. Another site, SpinSeason.com, has described the anti-China mood in the US as follows:

With less than a month before Election Day, Americans are being whipped up into a xenophobic froth. On Friday, the Wall Street Journal headlined a story “China-Bashing Gains Bipartisan Support”, noting that “China is emerging as a bogeyman… with candidates across the American political spectrum seizing on anxieties about the country’s growing economic might to pummel each other on trade, outsourcing and the deficit.

Here is a sample of anti-China political ads being shown these days to ordinary Americans. You can see the other ads listed by Spin Season here.

The Indian lobby in the United States, supported by Indian government and India’s sympathisers in Washington DC, are also using this election season to shift the American public’s anger away from India on the question of outsourcing jobs. The Indian government had become alarmed at how India-bashing was becoming common in major US media. Indian groups are at the forefront of funding the campaign to paint China as the real enemy who’s gobbling up American jobs.

The extent to how politicized this award is can also be gauged from the definition of the prize as put down by Alfred Nobel in his will. More than a century ago, Mr. Nobel wrote that the Peace prize should go “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Hardly a description befitting the Nobel committee’s choice for this year.

China’s population is receiving world-class healthcare, education and opportunities for prosperity. One day, China’s educated people will have a working, non-chaotic democracy tailored to suit China’s conditions and designed to grow with Chinese needs, not a democracy that the West could use as a Trojan horse to meddle in its affairs. The Nobel Foundation, Mr. Liu and the United States have no right to interfere.

The Nobel for Peace 2010 should be seen for what it is: a cheap, below-the-belt political hit disguised as a peace award.

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

Corrections: October 14, 2010

The story incorrectly cited the the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in Belgium.

ahmed.quraishi

Ahmed Quraishi

The author is a journalist and a public policy professional, with government & private sector experience across Pakistan and the Middle East. He tweets @Office_AQPk (twitter.com/Office_AQPk)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.