Politics of the Nobel Peace Prize
Liu Xiaobo is "obvious choice" for the Norwegian Nobel Committee to "address China"
by Sumanasiri Liayanage
"In the present situation, the Nobel Prize stands objectively as a distinction reserved for the writers of the West or the rebels of the East." - Jean-Paul Sartre
Is the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize political? Since the decision has to be taken giving due consideration to the contribution of the individual/s or institution to the promotion of world peace and disarmament, it is essentially a political decision.
According to the last will of Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896, the Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace". Alfred Nobel’s will further declared that the prize should be awarded by a committee of five people chosen by the Norwegian Parliament. Does the Nobel Committee stick to these principles when it decides to award Nobel Peace Prize? The award of the prize to Barak Obama in the last year and to Liu Xiaobo of China this year has raised the issue whether the Nobel Peace Committee does take the decision on the basis of hidden criteria other than those laid out clearly by the founder of the prize. Barak Obama has, in fact, increased the size of the invading army in Afghanistan significantly since he took office as the President of the USA. His statement to pull out the invading US military forces from Iraq has turned out to be a ruse.
The Obama administration has shown its incapability and reluctance to stop illegal Israel construction in Palestine.
Alfred Nobel would not rest in peace in his grave if he happened to know that his criteria were totally ignored and grossly violated in awarding the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. The same mistake was repeated when the committee had decided to grant 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Announcing that the committee had decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 to Liu Xiaobo, Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, stated that Liu Xiaobo was chosen because of "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China". He emphasized that "[t]he Norwegian Nobel Committee (NNC) has long believed that there is a close connection between human rights and peace. Such rights are a prerequisite for the "fraternity between nations" of which Alfred Nobel wrote in his will". Hence, it was the first criterion that was expected to uphold, according the committee, in taking this decision. Who is Liu Xiaobo? This is the answer given by the committee: "For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights also in China. He took part in the Tiananmen protests in 1989; he was a leading author behind Charter 08, the manifesto of such rights in China which was published on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 10th of December 2008".
One may wonder that this almost unknown person in China had in fact been invented by the NNC. In China, before the award, most people neither knew nor cared about Liu. According to Andrew Jacobs, (writer to the International Herald Tribune) an "official survey of university students taken since the prize was awarded found that 85% said they knew nothing about Liu and Charter ‘08." A Norwegian Sinologist has elicited comments from Chinese people and indicated that younger Chinese still do not care about Liu. Older Chinese intellectuals are interested in discussing the award, but many do not think Liu is an appropriate recipient. (The Guardian).
The most distressing fact is that Liu Xiaobo has been working against the fundamental principles of Nobel’s will. British Marxist Tariq Ali while criticizing the Chinese government’s decision to keep him behind the bars and also defending his right to hold his views has revealed that Liu Xiaobo is in fact reactionary warmonger. He is a champion of war, not of peace. Tariq Ali has shown that NNC has been gradually deviating from the Nobel criteria by awarding the Peace Prize to Obama in 2009 and Liu Xiaobo in 2010.
This is what UK Guardian revealed about Liu Xiaobo. "[Liu Xiaobo] has endorsed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he applauded the Vietnam and Korean wars retrospectively in a 2001 essay. All these conflicts have entailed massive violations of human rights. Yet in his article Lessons from the Cold War, Liu argues that "The free world led by the US fought almost all regimes that trampled on human rights … The major wars that the US became involved in are all ethically defensible." During the 2004 US presidential election, Liu warmly praised George Bush for his war effort against Iraq and condemned Democratic party candidate John Kerry for not sufficiently supporting the US’s wars: ‘[T]he outstanding achievement made by Bush in anti-terrorism absolutely cannot be erased by Kerry’s slandering … However much risk must be endured in striking down Saddam Hussein, know that no action would lead to a greater risk. This has been proven by the Second World War and September 11! No matter what, the war against Saddam Hussein is just! The decision by President Bush is right!’."
The paper further said: "Liu has also one-sidedly praised Israel’s stance in the Middle East conflict. He places the blame for the Israel/Palestine conflict on Palestinians, who he regards as "often the provocateurs". Liu has also advocated the total westernisation of China. In a 1988 interview he stated that "to choose westernisation is to choose to be human". He also faulted a television documentary, He Shang, or River Elegy, for not thoroughly criticising Chinese culture and not advocating westernisation enthusiastically enough: "If I were to make this I would show just how wimpy, spineless and f… up the Chinese really are". Liu considered it most unfortunate that his monolingualism bound him in a dialogue with something "very benighted and philistine," the Chinese cultural sphere.
Harvard researcher Lin Tongqi noted that an early 1990s book by Liu contains "pungent attacks on the Chinese national character".
What does the decision NNC to award the Nobel Peace Prize signify? Was it just another deviation from basic fundamentals? Or can it be considered an exception to basically correct practice? In my opinion, the decision reveals two fundamental flaws in the decision making practice of the NNC. Moreover, it proves that the so-called human right discourse has now degenerated to the extent of serving the domination of finance capital and the US hegemony. The selection Liu Xiaobo was for sure a conscious action to embarrass China. For instance, Geir Lundestad, secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said during a talk at Oxford University at the end of October 2010 that in recent years the committee judges had gradually come to believe they had to "address the China question". Hence Liu became an "obvious choice" for them to "address China". Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a Norwegian lawyer has criticised the NNC for awarding the 2010 peace prize to Liu. He opined that "[r]ather than cooperation and dialogue, this year the Nobel Committee has promoted controversy and ill will". So he asked for the NNC resignation. Heffermehl surmised that the 2010 decision of the NNC had reflected ‘mindset of people still caught in Western paternalism and a cold war mentality’.
Secondly, that Nobel Peace Prize has unfortunately become a victim of new technique of governmentality that has been adopted by the international finance capital under the cover of the US hegemony. Norwegians, in case of WikiLeaks, Sweden and other Western peripheral nations have been playing second fiddle to US led imperialism.
Almost entire human rights discourse has now become one essential part of the hegemonic agenda. Liu got the prize because he has been what Sartre called "a rebel of the East".
The writer teaches political economy at the University of Peradeniya.