Wednesday, December 8, 2010

China Defines its own Rules

Apparently the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was not content with the support of eighteen countries in boycotting the awarding of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  Yesterday the government released an official statement to the Associated Press announcing that they would initiate a similar award that would “interpret the viewpoints of peace of [the] Chinese,” presumably with a “majority rule” focus on those living in the PRC itself.  According to a report filed last night for Associated Press by Tini Tran, the new award will be called the Confucius Peace Prize.

Tran’s report also includes the announcement of the first recipient of this prize:

The first honoree is Lien Chan, Taiwan's former vice president and the honorary chairman of its Nationalist Party, for having "built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan." A staffer in his Taipei office said she could not comment Tuesday because she knew nothing about the prize.

Lien was chosen from among eight nominees — some of whom are regularly mentioned for, or have already won, that other peace prize: including billionaire Bill Gates, former South African President Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

While China regularly disparages the Dalai Lama, the religion's spiritual leader, the current Panchen Lama is a 20-year-old who was hand-picked by Beijing. The original boy named by the Dalai Lama has disappeared.

This seems worthy of a Chutzpah of the Week award, although I suppose there can be some debate over whether the connotation of this particular act of chutzpah is negative or positive.  At the very least it is a more constructive approach than the official reaction of the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Liu Xiaobo, which Tran summarized as follows:

Since Liu Xiaobo's selection, China has vilified the 54-year-old democracy advocate, called the choice an effort by the West to contain its rise, disparaged his supporters as "clowns," and launched a campaign to persuade countries not to attend Friday's ceremony in Oslo. The government is also preventing Liu — who is serving an 11-year sentence for co-authoring a bold appeal for political reforms in the Communist country — and his family members from attending.

Furthermore, by selecting a candidate on the basis of activities that so clearly reflected the interests of the PRC, the Chinese may have found the right way to express their opinion that national self-interest has always been at the heart of the Nobel awards.  Nevertheless, there is a curious irony put into play here.  The Chinese have put a stake in the ground to assert just how culturally dependent a concept like “peace” can be;  and then they named that stake after a philosopher whose principles are about as absolutist as you can get.  Ultimately, this is act that embodies the old gag line, “Be reasonable;  do it my way.”  This would be little more than an amusing joke were it not for the extent to which our own government follows exactly the same precept.

The bottom line is that it’s the PRC’s nickel (actually 100,000 yuan, which Tran values at $15,000).  They can do what they want with it.  However, because what they have done sends so many messages, many of which really should not be ignored, the PRC deserves a country-wide Chutzpah of the Week award for their innovative approach to “constructive criticism” of the Nobel Committee (and let me know when the first Jew makes the short list)!

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