The Nobel Peace Prize has been marked by some odd choices in recent years. First, there was the climate hype of 2007, which didn’t have all that much to do with peace. Then, there was last year’s obsession with Obama, who at the time hadn’t done much besides making speeches (which he doesn’t do nearly as much or as well any longer). One might suspect that mere jealousy that Obama visited Copenhagen twice last fall spurred the Norwegians into wooing him to come to their party.
Anyway, today’s announcement cannot be said to irrelevant. Controversial, sure. But that’s the whole idea. Liu Xiaobo is the first Chinese national living in the PRC to be awarded the peace prize, or any Nobel Prize. This is ironic, given that China in its rise to global power has been obsessed for years with winning a Nobel Prize in the sciences. Now that they finally do get one, it’s awarded to a dissident serving a prison term for “inciting the subversion of state power”. He wins the prize primarily for co-authoring a petition demanding human rights, political reform, and real democracy. The same act that got him jailed in 2008.
It is comforting that the committee still has guts to challenge the powers that be. China had threatened Norway that awarding the prize to Liu would seriously damage relations between those two countries. Of course the committee is independent of the Norwegian government (probably an unknown concept to the Chinese), but essentially, this is the Nobel committee telling Red China: “Up yours!” Well, someone had to.
Naturally, the announcement has made headlines in media across the world, including CNN and BBC, but also Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. China’s national news agency, Xinhua, however, is silent. For now.