Why China Sees the Nobel Prize as a Threat

The Beijing regime has been very direct in its condemnation of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11 year prison sentence. On Oct. 9, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ma Zhaoxu stated,


Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who broke China's laws and was convicted by Chinese judicial authorities. What he did runs in opposite directions to the purposes of the Prize. It completely violates the principles of the prize and discredits the peace prize itself for the Nobel committee to award the prize to such a person.

Liu Xiaobo is the author of the Charter 08 petition singed by 8,000 activists. It called for the election of public officials, freedom of speech and religion, an independent judiciary and protection of private property among other reforms. It was released in December, 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Liu was arrested almost immediately and convicted on the charge of "subverting state power" in December 2009.

The problem for the regime is not that the Nobel Prize violates its principles by going to a dissident, but that it confirms those principles which are a threat to the ruling Communist dictatorship. The Communist Party newspaper Global Times confirmed this in its Saturday editorial. It called the award a "disgrace" and Liu "an incarcerated Chinese criminal." But it went further than the Foreign Ministry in describing the real threat the Nobel Prize presents,

Many Chinese feel the peace prize is loaded with Western ideology. Last century the prize was awarded several times to pro-West advocates in the former Soviet Union, including Mikhail Gorbachev, whose efforts directly led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The Western preference of the Nobel committee did not disappear with the end of the Cold War.

They have reason to question whether the Nobel Peace Prize has been degraded to a political tool that serves an anti-China purpose. It seems that instead of peace and unity in China, the Nobel committee would like to see the country split by an ideological rift, or better yet, collapse like the Soviet Union.

The post-Mao reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping were meant to avoid the fate of the Soviet Union and build a stronger China that could resist Western influences. The focus of reform was the Chinese economy, as Deng understood here was where the USSR had lost its competition with the United States. But Deng was opposed to political reforms which he believed Gorbachev had bungled with a disastrous outcome for the communists. It should be remembered that despite his reputation in the West as a progressive who laid the foundation for China's stunning economic growth, Deng also ordered the troops into Tiananmen Square to crush the student democracy movement.

The editorial complained that "The Nobel committee once again displayed its arrogance and prejudice against a country that has made the most remarkable economic and social progress in the past three decades." The success of the China Model of rapid growth under autocratic rule is the basis for Beijing's legitimacy. But it is also the source of concern over the international affect of China's rise. State capitalism has given China vast new industrial, technological, financial, and military capabilities that are in the hands of leaders whose ambitions are still those of a Leninist party that laments the defeat of the Soviets by the West in the Cold War. Deng's successors, particularly the current President Hu Jintao, have made no secret that they want a different outcome in the next round.