Oct 13

Translation: What Travesty does the Award of the Nobel to Liu Xiao Bo Reveal?

Written by Allen on Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 at 8:21 am
Filed under:Analysis, General, human rights, Letters, Opinion, politics | Tags:,
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Here is a translation of an op-ed from a Chinese blog about Liu’s Nobel that we at FM found interesting.

So here goes the news again: Public Enemy Number One in China, Liu Xiao Bo, has been awarded the Nobel Prize!  Not sure where that infamous title of Liu came from.  But this latest Nobel prize must be giving people in the U.S. quite a laugh.

The award of a Nobel to Liu is certainly controversial. Allegedly, the Nobel committee itself was internally divided. But given Liu’s high profile conviction last year, this decision is not totally unexpected. I originally did not plan to write about Liu. However, given the renewed and widespread interest of Liu’s Nobel, I have decided to wade in my thoughts. Here is a translation of what a typical report in the West is like.

For people who are against the Chinese government, the award of Liu’s Nobel is great news. The Nobel not only represents a great boost to the morale of human rights activists around the world, but also brought shame to the Chinese Communist Party. Unfortunately, judging by the Chinese government’s strong adverse response, few expects there to be any political change anytime soon.

The Chinese government has decided to censor news of Liu’s winning of the Nobel. During the middle of routine broadcast programs of CNN and BCC programs, the screen went blank. Few uninitiated were thus able to learn about Liu’s prize.

The recognition and respect given by the Nobel to Liu has hit a sore spot in the Chinese government. First it was the Dalai Lama, now it is Liu. The Nobel has given both international recognition and prestige. For the Chinese government, it has created another diplomatic embarrassment and headache.

While censorship will not be successful in preventing people from learning about Liu, many people in China today don’t know about Liu. Who is this successor of President Obama – the previous Nobel Peace Laureate? Censorship may push discussion of Liu from the public spotlight, but it will not prevent people from discussing the truth of what Liu has revealed.

The prize has now boosted the morale of the signatories of Charter 08 – now probably numbering some ten thousand – but also lawyers fighting for justice and rule of law, and environmentalists throughout China.

The government has responded fiercely in opposition of the award. According to the government, Liu has broken the law and has been sentenced to prison by a court of law. To award the prize to such a person is totally against the principle of the Nobel. The award will stain the prize itself for a long time to come.

The Chinese Communist Party will fight hard to persevere

The recognition given to Liu should send to Chinese Communist Party a strong signal. The truth is obscenely clear: China is still a weak and backward country. It does not even observe Universal Human Rights.

Despite promises upon promises that political reforms will follow economic reforms, the party officials continue to take the position that basic principles of democratic elections, the independence of the judiciary, and freedom of speech are not fit for China.

The only reforms allowed are limited to reforms within the party, reforms that consolidate party power: fewer corruption, fewer government interferences, more efficiency.

For many human rights activists throughout the world and in China, last Friday was a rare day of celebration. Of course, no one dared to hope that change would arrive soon. After all, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest in Myanmar. The Dalai Lama remains exiled, unable to bring about any change for his Tibet.

Chinese leaders Hu and Wen have strongly objected to the Prize. They would predictably point to China’s growth, stability, and lifting of millions out of poverty – yet they have let a rights fighter like Liu sit in jail.

Alas, the prize may have come too late. The government has already dug in and is entrenched in upholding Liu’s excessive sentence. The travesty has little to do with what Liu did, but the excessive sentence he has to serve.

Ultimately the above perspective is to be expected. With their economies still in doldrums, many European nations have come to eye recent Chinese economic growth with jealousy. And the prize provides them an opportunity for self congratulations. China is a weak and backward country. They don’t respect human rights. When Westerners look at China today, their perspective begins with 19th century. First  by guns and violence, later waving the flag of human rights, Westerners seem to want to suppress China at all costs. For them, it is not relevant whether Chinese people improve the circumstances that surround their daily livelihood. It is not important whether people are lifted out of poverty. Their ideological position seen to be torn from an anachronistic page from the cold war; even I, as someone who is typically critical of the government, feel manipulated and abused. Whether such attitudes stem from genuine misunderstandings or calculated conniving is hard to say. In the same breath, they light a fire to Chinese people’s genuine yearning for reform and douse it by calling Chinese people as “backward” and “brainwashed.” They pursue realist, zero-sum, geopolitical games under the empty rhetoric of “freedom” and “human rights.”

I believe most Chinese people in their heart understand what China has gone through to be where it is today. Westerners (including even many Chinese) have forgotten that China used to represent for the world a beacon of light – of a just, enlightened, harmonious power from the 16th – 18th century. But from the 19th century forward, with guns, steel, and cannons, Westerners soon came to regard China as backward. In the new game, it does not matter what China stands for. As long as China does not submit to the West, the West will never acknowledge China.

But what does China stand for? In the economic sphere, there is shallow capitalism. Politically, there is communism? You must be kidding. Communism as practiced today is already captured by special economic interest groups. The Chinese government has become the laughing stock of the world. The fact that it wields so little influence on the international stage is a direct result of its corrupted shying away from taking substantive political reforms. It knows only of censorship and control. It is so weak that it cannot take on simplistic and false ideologies such as “freedom.” It cannot taken on even second rate intellectuals such as Liu Xiao Bo. It must hide behind vague notions of stability and harmony. It concedes notions of “Civil Liberties” and “Universal Values” to be defined in terms of Western notions of “freedom” and “liberty.” Isn’t true universal right a government that can provide for the people? Chinese political and philosophical thought has a long and enlightened history. It complements Western political thoughts well. Yet today’s politicians have botched things up. They have forgotten that politicians are supposed to be just, enlightened, and compassionate. They are supposed to serve the people. How can our leaders talk about justice, virtue, and compassion when they are neither just, virtuous, nor compassionate?

There is no denying that the Nobel for Liu has hit a raw nerve for the government. But the prize hurts not because of Liu’s empty call for “freedom” or “human rights,” but because of the dilapidated state and impotence of Chinese political thought in this early period of the 21st century. Our dilapidation can be seen everywhere: from our taking anti-Chinese writings on facebook and youtube as basic political teaching materials, to our artists relying on movies such as those about Yi He Yuan to capture their imagination of the Chinese Renaissance, to our artists finding expressions only through one dimensional vocabularies of passion and oppression, to our college students and farmers relying on  money to assess their self worth, to our local officials and police making their careers at the expense of ordinary people, to the media outdoing each other in a relentless pursuit of sensationalism and mind-numbing entertainment. Our dilapidated state is the real indictment against our current state of affairs.

True enlightenment and political wisdom can be found in our bookstores, our libraries, the great human traditions from all around the world. But from our leaders to the most ordinary of our citizens, no one appears to care about these things in their daily life. This is the great travesty of Chinese society as revealed by Liu’s Nobel prize.

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21 Responses to “Translation: What Travesty does the Award of the Nobel to Liu Xiao Bo Reveal?”

  1. mpvaz Says:

    First of all, there’s no need to be overly pessimistic about the future of democracy in China. It’s only been seven decades since the May Fourth Movement began, compared to the three centuries that it took for science to be accepted, so there’s no call for complete despair.

    Second, the basic principles and standards of modernization and democratization are like those of science — universally applicable. In this regard there’s no Eastern or Western standard, only the difference between ‘backward’ and ‘advanced’, between ‘correct’ and ‘mistaken’.

    Third, the chief obstacle to the modernization and democratization of Chinese culture lies in the same erroneous idea that kept science out of China for so many years: the theory of China’s ‘unique characteristics’, in all its variations.

    Fang Lizhi, April 1989

  2. kui Says:

    I am so sick of seeing foreign money in Chinese politics. Sick of it.

  3. kui Says:

    I just read an article from a Chinese forum saying that Fang Lizhi has named China a threat to peace in his congratulation to liu’s wining of Peace Prize.


    If you know where is Fang Lizhi up to then you must be able to provide the original source?

  4. jxie Says:

    Most Liu’s supporters don’t really know who Liu really is and what he advocates. A few are vaguely aware of the “300 years of colonialism” quote and brush it aside as an old and extemporaneous statement.

    Actually, no. First he’s never repented that statement. If you read more and in depth of what he has written up until now, “300 years of colonialism” is just a tip of the iceberg. Liu is not just against the Chinese government – he is against anything China, all of it, i.e. the tradition & culture in thousands of years, not unless it is one day totally westernized, which is the only golden shining boulevard for all mankind. Since ancient China wasn’t rooted on “freedom”, “democracy” started in Athens (never mind slavery, mob rule & foreign wars), Chinese in history were all living their dehumanized lives (非人化). That would include Confucius (莫春者,春服既成,冠者五六人,童子六七人,浴乎沂,风乎舞雩,咏而归), Li Bai (岑夫子、丹丘生:将进酒,杯莫停。 与君歌一曲,请君为我侧耳听。 钟鼓馔玉不足贵,但愿长醉不愿醒。 古来圣贤皆寂寞,唯有饮者留其名), or Liu Yong (便纵有千种风情,更与何人说) — all of them were dehumanized, despite the latter 2 having far more meaningful and materially far more refined lives than their Western peers.

    As extreme as Liu’s viewpoints were, in the 80s they weren’t that out of whack. In a way it was the natural extension from Lu Xun, to Bo Yang, through the disaster known as the Cultural Revolution, what would happen to many literary critics among an ancient people. As life progresses, most have moved on. A recent Pew survey shows that by far the least people in China, among all nations, consider their nation in a wrong direction. Liu is just stuck in the 80s and has never left.

    Liu called 98%, 99% of his peers (Chinese Ph.Ds in the late 80s) idiots. I guess he considered “融四岁,能让梨” as a dehumanized way of carrying oneself.

  5. Rhan Says:


    “In a way it was the natural extension from Lu Xun, to Bo Yang,”

    I read somewhere that if Luxun live longer, probably he is either in jail or shut up. As for Bo Yang, he was detained as political prisoner for nine years, so naturally, the extension (imprisonment) make sense to Liu?

    Anyway, unlike Luxun, who assailed Chinese mentality in order to arouse them from their stupor, Bo Yang did it to attract the West and make some money from them Yang did achieve his purpose, though: he was much feted by Western media and even invited to give a talk at the Univ of Iowa.

    I think Liu resemble Bo Yang more than Luxun.

  6. No99 Says:

    Hi jxie,

    Don’t worry too much about people’s perception about history. The opinions always change, and like you said, it’s often reflective of the general attitudes of the times. In the right context and depending on the speaker, sometimes very provocative words aren’t as bad as it sounds.

    In Western history, a lot of people didn’t glamourize their past as much as we do today. That stuff got it’s start in the early 19th century. Sure, you had periods like the Renaissance, Enlightement and such which would make some people in Western societies prideful (as it is with all the other civilizations and their histories), but at least it was relatively balance. They knew and were quite aware that non-Western places were either their equals or more powerful in some ways. In other words, people were more humble in the West, about the West. Now, the idea, more like illusion, that western modernity is the golden path has already penetrated almost everywhere. Mostly due to the influence of media and success stories of immigrants to the West (which btw doesn’t always happen). Slowly people are kind of waking up to the reality that nothing is guaranteed, and no system or ideology is perfect of sustainable. The people themselves must determine what works for them. Can’t always follow under one label, like it’s only western values or only chinese characteristics.

    I’m not bashing the West or ignoring the reality of how Chinese nationals live , but I just want to point out how we should look at these issues from another perspective.

  7. HKer Says:

    My White friend got very upset with me when I deemed Liu as an idiot in agreement with Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong article entitled,The Medal Contention

    ( groups.google.com/group/hk.politics/msg/5e739fe83c17e9f…)

    #5 No99
    ” The people themselves must determine what works for them. Can’t always follow under one label, like it’s only western values or only chinese characteristics.”

    Indeed. As we say in Hong Kong ” 一本天书不能看到老. ”

    Indeed, we are fortunate, I guess, to be living in a time where one has more choice than ever before – to adept to, accept and reject whatever values that are out there with the freedom to selectively adopt. Take ones taste preferences for example. Millions upon millions of Asians have come to accept and even like pizza, cheese and European bread. It’s the same with many westerners who genuinely like super spicy Sichuan hotpot. On the other hand, I have met many Chinese who can’t stand any of the aforementioned western food just as there are tons of Westerners who complain about Chinese chicken and fish dishes with bones in them which most Chinese prefer. One Brit kept telling me that such and such Chinese dishes are “survival food.” So, I told him, bread and butter/peanut butter Jam to us Chinese is survival food. Now, the preference of language however, particularly for the schooling and rank and file working population is of course a much different story of social disparity and inequality.

  8. silentchinese Says:

    Rhan Says:
    “I think Liu resemble Bo Yang more than Luxun.”


    That’s a disgrace and insult to Bo Yang.
    Bo Yang actually writes pretty good, and some original ideas.

    Liu & Co? sorry, no.

    dry peices of commie hating tossed in with your stand stock of Western high school civic class ” Life Liberty and Property” essays. very much cater to his grant reviewers at NED.

    I am bit of sympathetic to him tough, sits in jail for expressing such empty rehtoric.

  9. silentchinese Says:

    In reality, why Western Enlightenment Ideals are so “powerful” and “universal”?

    because West won the argument with guns.

    If Emperial west was consistently militarially and technologically defeated when they meet a strong chinese state circa 1840. (very much could have happened) I don’t think their ideas wouldn;t have had such large impact on china. or any one in the east asia.

    for one, the self doubt that was characterized so many chinese intellectual when they turned to their own philosophical and cultural system in the dawn of 20th century would not have happened.

  10. silentchinese Says:

    “I read somewhere that if Luxun live longer, probably he is either in jail or shut up.”

    I studied the history of may 4th movement and the chinese intellectual sphere circa 1900.
    what strikes me is they all start from a attitude of means to achieve an end. their end is always “save china”
    the energy that propelled them to search for a way to “save china” made them left no stone un turned .i.e. direct attack on chinese classic culture and philosophy (even language) .

    also, simular movements can be seen in Korea Japan, Vietnam. etc.

    the technological, military, and political superiority of the western aggressors were too great and too much of a shock.

    Now they can argue and they did argue amongst themselves what method will best achieve the end. but one should never loss sight of the premise that all this is but a mean to achieve an end.
    it just happened that a band of radicals from the extreme left of the spectrum won the argument, by guns,… and through out the journey they moderate and changed themselves many times, but judging by the end results. i.e. propell china from a failed state to the cusp of superpowerdom in 60 some years. they should get a passing grade.

  11. HKer Says:

    ” direct attack on chinese classic culture and philosophy (even language) .”

    Very very sad indeed. As much as I enjoy other culture and food, I will never want to trade my inherited culture for ephemeral expedience and passing trends. Now, I really don’t know about overseas born Chinese though, and I have met many. Many adept quickly, some couldn’t and preder to hangout with expats, while the odd few (esp. the ones who are fluent in Chinese) fit in this, their ancestral home culture, really well.

  12. Rhan Says:

    “they should get a passing grade.”

    SC, the first 30 years is about sovereignty, the following 30 years is about economy growth and perhaps what the Chinese looking forward for the next 30 years is not merely a passing grade.

    Honestly I have no qualm toward the critique towards Liu but I am a bit upset toward how CCP handle the news of Liu winning the Noble Prize. It gave me an impression that the sovereignty and economy growth for the last 60 years doesn’t lead China and Chinese into a self assurance and confidence stage. The modus operandi and reaction remain not much difference. This is just my opinion.


    To most, culture is inherited but to some, it is a matter of struggle like hell.

  13. ian Says:

    only to the heartless or brainwashed could a human’s freedom from “the party” be considered “empty rhetoric”

  14. pug_ster Says:


    The problem is that Liu Xiaobo cares little about people’s freedom’s.

  15. ian Says:

    says who?

  16. Wahaha Says:

    only to the heartless or brainwashed could a human’s freedom from “the party” be considered “empty rhetoric”


    Chinese state media cant brainwash people, cuz it doesnt have enough credibility.

    Now read the following, tell us if you believe it or not so Chinese can tell if you are brainwashed.


    For painting classic Tibetan images as a teenager, Dakpa says, Chinese police — intent on suppressing Tibetan culture — arrested, beat and tortured him, shoving his hands into a coal-burning oven.

  17. Wahaha Says:

    says who?

    I guess that you believe that few chinese know what the tankman is, dont you?

    Let me tell you, even on anti-cnn, people talk about 8^2. (8^2 = 64)

    So please stop talking about China with your brainwashed brain.

  18. ian Says:

    中共必敗, if more people know about the tank man, it’s good, it means Chinese people will be free sooner.

  19. pug_ster Says:

    Nobody knows tank man’s real name. How do we know more about him? I think the West want to know less about the Tank man because they want to remember as some kind of stupid ‘symbol’ of the 6/4 movement.

    This is very much like Liu Xiaobo. The West want us to remember him as some guy pushing for democracy in China. Fortunately, this guy wrote alot of western propaganda over the years and this guy propose that China to be the 51st state of the US. It is a good thing that China throw this guy in the slammer.

  20. Wahaha Says:



    That is fine with me if you can name some candidates better than CCP..

    LXB ? he is a garbage.


  1. Translation: What Travesty does the Award of the Nobel to Liu Xiao Bo Reveal? | Hidden Harmonies China Blog

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