Saturday, October 09, 2010

Liu Xiaobo wins Nobel Peace Prize, as Beijing Planned

Mingde Reservoir from 126 along its north side. As lovely a stretch of road as can be found in Taiwan.

Taiwan Congratulates dissident Liu Xiaobo
says the headline of an article which collects reactions to the award from the President, the KMT, and the DPP, as well as individuals. The President also called for Beijing to release Liu. Quite a turnaround for someone who spent his salad days in opposition to the growth of democracy in Taiwan.

Jottings from the Granite Studio ripped the CCP -- and took a gentle poke at the Nobel Prize Committee -- in a witty post on the prize award.
As of 8:30 this morning, the domestic media is simply repeating the official rebuke from last night and then…deafening silence. I think the idea here is “If I don’t say anything, everybody will think it was the dog who farted not me.” Always a winning PR strategy.

The fact is that the CCP doesn’t need to do this anymore. More than one commentator in the past 24 hours has referred to the debacle as a “PRC own goal.” If government hadn’t been so freaked out by Charter 08 and sentenced Liu Xiaobo to prison (on December 25, 2009 figuring that the Western world would be too deep in egg nog to care…how’s that plan working out right about now?) then the Nobel committee wouldn’t have given this guy the time of day. Not to take anything away from Liu’s obvious set of large brass ones or his and his family’s sacrifice, but this Prize is as much a testament to the CCP’s continued paranoia and basic stupidity when confronted with even the most mild of statements for systemic or institutional change as it is about any one man.
"PRC own goal" -- a goal in which you stupidly and mistakenly score against yourself, thus creating a point for the other team. I think there's a glimmer of insight I'd like to tease out here.

Let me point out something. Prior to the award, China warned Norway against giving Liu the award. This blog was among the many commentators who noted that this all but sealed it for Liu. Indeed, the pressure has been on a long time.
Nobel Institute Director Geir Lundestad told the Norwegian news agency Norsk Telegrambyrå (NTB) that China's Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying met Lundestad in Oslo this summer to deliver the message. Separately, a Hong Kong visitor who met Norwegian officials earlier this year told Asia Sentinel that "the government folks there said they were under tremendous pressure from the Communists not to give the Peace Prize as long ago as last November. It is an outrageous example of Beijing interfering in the internal affairs of small countries."
Do you think the leadership in Beijing didn't know that pressure would only produce the opposite results? Try this on for size: Beijing was trying to ensure that Liu got the award.

If they didn't want Liu to win, why did they keep Liu front and center in China-Norway relations for almost a year?

With the ground broken on a Chinese dissident, Beijing and Taipei can then approach the Committee for Nobel approval of the Ma-Hu 2011 Nobel Peace Taiwan Sellout Lovefest Tour. The Committee, having affronted Beijing the previous year, will naturally want to mend fences. And what could be better than a joint Ma-Hu Peace Prize for "calming tensions" in the Strait? (what a boost for Ma going into 2012 too). Why do you think Ma came out so strongly for this and called for Liu's release in the massive publicity wake of the prize, but when DPP Chair Tsai urged Ma to talk to PRC negotiator Chen Yunlin in Dec of last year, only a weak statement was issued?

And as a special bonus, if it is given at the same time next year, it will occur around Double 10 Day (ROC) and the PRC National Day (Oct 1).

UPDATE: Several other motivations for wanting Liu to win have been suggested, including preventing Gao from getting it.

UPDATE II: Some excellent rejections of this in comments below.
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Anonymous said...


I do believe that Art Waldron was kidding, KIDDING, when he wrote his letter last week. and then Ben Goren and David Reid go and take him serioulsy and rebuke him for th remark. He was using irony, guys, can't you read English anymore?


•David collects responses to Arthur Waldron's JOSSHING KDDING IRONIC call for the opposition and the KMT to celebrate National Day together. Waldron is a longtime China/Taiwan observer and strong supporter of Taiwan.

Dr Anon One
Taibei Chitty

READ AW's letter again. slowly.

Anonymous said...

Here's Art's letter. He was joking when he used the word distressed. Can't Ben and David see that now?

I saw that the minute I read it and i don't even live in Taiwan anymore. Sheesh. OMG.

Dear Editor, Taipei Times

I am ''distressed'' (sic) to learn that the opposition parties might not participate in the Double Ten National Day celebration for political reasons. Every country ''needs'' (sic) a national day and Taiwan is no exception. Perhaps the problem could be ''solved'' (sic) by a “2010 Consensus”: ''One national day'' (sic), different interpretations.

Dr Arthur Waldron PHD

He used DISTRESSED in a kidding way. Where is humor these days? Wake up Goren and Reid!

Anonymous said...

and webmaster sir:

China DID NOT want Liu to get the Nobel, so that next year Hu Ma could get one for peace. You are back to your paranoid conspiracy ways again. What you smoking these days in Taiwan sire?

Dr ANon three

David said...

Michael, it's an interesting theory and I give you credit for thinking outside the box. However, I simply don't buy it.

Authoritarian governments simply don't think that logically or perceive reality in the same way others do. They are blinded to believe in a bunch of lies. China really did believe it could bully Norway into NOT awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo.

Read the sentence handed down to Liu Xiabo as an example of how the Communists think. They are so caught up in their revolutionary rhetoric that it is almost comical for someone to who doesn't share that view of the world to read.

Read some of Wei Jingsheng's letters (on Tibet) (a collection) written to Deng Xiaoping. It is very clear who is thinking clearly and rationally here. Remember Wei was imprisoned and in poor health when he wrote these letters too.

I am sure that Ma has ambitions to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Perhaps even Hu Jintao does too. But to suggest that Beijing locked up Liu Xiaobo and schemed to get the Nobel Prize awarded to him in the hope that this would lay a foundation for the prize to later to be awarded to Ma and Hu overestimates the ability of authoritarians to engage in rational thought.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of salad days, the author of this blog seems to have morphed from a fairly liberal, progressive into a right wing conspiracy theorist, at least where East Asian politics is concerned.

Do you really believe what you write, or are you having a great joke at the expense of some of your wackier readers?

China wanting Liu to win....rofl

Ma-Hu Nobel Lovefest...rofl

KMT keeping Chen locked up so he doesn't do any damage to...oops. Fail. rofl

TicoExpat said...

I dunno guys. Ther eis talk that Liu is a wolf in sheep's clothing. And since many dissidents and refugees that have landed in other countries have revealed themselves years later as spies, one has to take this Noble prize with a pound of salt.

The weirdest thing is Ma's comment asking for Liu's liberation. Especially in light of Beijing's blocking all international media mentioning of this event -and only allowing opposition comments. China is quite adept at playing the crying game. Most of its allies in Latin America have also turned around with similar comments, especially the paid ones, which means they need a raise or something's afoot.

無名 - wu ming said...

i think you give the chinese too much credit, there's no way they're that subtle. my hunch is that they thought they could just tell the norwegians what to do because they're a small country and china a big one. cf. china's diplomatic jackassery with southeast asian countries of late.

irony? said...

@Anonymous: Waldron used irony and Turton is dead serious?
Oh, I get it, you were ironic yourself...

Michael Turton said...

KMT keeping Chen locked up so he doesn't do any damage to...oops. Fail. rofl

If you can't read English, you probably shouldn't comment here.

mx said...

1. I think the committee more than likely wanted to make up for last year's fuck-up of giving the award to Wall St. puppet Obama.

2. No disrespect to Liu, but the person who is really due to win the award is Mordechai Vanunu (He blew the whistle on the Israeli nuke program)

3. I know you mentioned the Ma/Hu lovefest before, it is an intriguing thought...

On that same note, I have a suggestion to solve the KMT/DPP debate issue. If you take a look at this picture (Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker painted on the Berlin Wall), what the can do is offer both the DPP and KMT each a side of the Taipei city flood wall. On each side the parties can paint their messages to the people. If done semi-professionally, it would be a good tool to use to get the international media to understand the positions each side takes. (of course the KMT side would be left blank because if they told the truth of what their plan is, the Taiwanese would burn down the KMT HQ).

Lastly, the day Ma wins a Nobel is the day I vomit all the Taiwan beer and greasy porkchops that I've ever eaten in Taiwan.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks for the great comments, keep'em coming.

Really I just wanted to get this out there. I don't really know why they kept Liu front and center for a year. I think we underestimate Beijing's media saavy at our peril -- they have high powered, totally unscrupulous western marketing types advising them.


John Herodotus said...

I think that Liu is a highly deserving recipient of the award, especially when compared to those who have received it since Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.

In his essay "That Holy Word, 'Revolution'", written after the June 4 Movement, he writes powerfully about the dangerous impulses of the democratic movement in China. One might think he was kow-towing to the Communist Party, but his real worry was that in the midst of all their righteous indignation that they would become as tyrannical as the communists.

The fact that he has continued to work for democracy and freedom and justice and having stayed in China when almost everybody else either left, got rich, or just shut up, shows what kind of person he is.

I think anybody who feels the burn of righteous indignation towards China's government should read that essay and recognize that if East Asia is to be brought into some semblance of a peaceful and democratic normality, it will have to be in the spirit of Liu Xiaobo. In my opinion, that is the real story here.

Marc said...

I dunno guys. There is talk that Liu is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Can we not go down the slippery slope of media-hyped conspiracy theories? Is Obama a Muslim? Is Arnold Schwarzenegger a Nazi sympathizer? Is Tony Blair a Tory?

As an analogy to Liu's Charter, The priest, Martin Luther's, "95 Theses" protesting against the vicissitudes of the Catholic Church was in fact a document IN FAVOR of reforming the church, not ending it, although later he became anti-papist because of the attacks against him.

If Liu's words still seem supportive toward the current regime, couldn't it mean that he's aware that change should occur through the CCP's willingness to reform itself, rather than through dissolution?

This doesn't preclude that Liu wouldn't become virulently anti-communist as a result of the treatment he's received at the hands of his gaolers.

Dixteel said...

hey, that's actually a pretty good theory. I mean, seriously, what's the damage done to Beijin if Liu got a Peace Prize? Absolutely none.

Anonymous said...

Michael, fascinating theory, credit to you for putting it out there. The CCP has the motive all right but I'm with the sceptics on this. Four reasons:

1) The plan means alerting millions of concerned individuals around the world, including voters in Taiwan, to Liu's existence and imprisonment. Also the possibility that net-savvy folk in China will start finding their way to the Charter 08 document. But if the Hu-Ma handshake takes place in 2011 then it'll be almost impossible to stop them sharing the next Nobel gong regardless who got the prize in 2010.

2) Sprawling complacent risk-averse bureaucracies aren't good at conspiracies requiring cross-departmental trust and cooperation. I imagine the senior officials responsible for drawing up and approving a plan like this, and everyone else up and down the reporting line, all weighing their careers and pensions against the big possibility of the plan backfiring by fueling anti-CCP sentiments overseas, inspiring pro-democracy people in China with the example of Liu's courage, tilting Taiwan voters against the KMT in the November elections etc. If I were one of those officials, I'd nix this idea early on.

3) Assuming they involved the KMT, the CCP would have to factor in the possibility that incriminating evidence about the plan will at some point get leaked. For every additional individual in Taiwan that is involved or gets wind of the plan (Ma's driver, Su Chi's diary secretary, Wu Den-yi's wife...or god forbid a KMT legislator) that risk increases exponentially. And in fact by letting the KMT in on the project the CCP would be handing the old enemy a huge rod for its own back.

4) "Cock-up before conspiracy." The PRC Foreign Ministry's incompetent attempts to bully the Nobel committee by threatening Norway don't look so anomalous in the light of the PRC's habit of shooting itself in the foot over the past few months.

Anonymous said...

Nobel prize of being a dissident, yes. Nobel prize for Peace? you have to give the judges the middle finger for their lack of intellectual reasons. But even then why for Liu only. What is it so special when there are hundreds other dissidents in jail who are equally qualified.

The logic, China is in every person radar and the nobel prize definitely fit a low-grade dissident from a high flyer country.


Anonymous said...

As for the debate on the existence of universal values reported in Commonwealth, that is a debate that has been going on in China for a good ten years.

Claes Ryn, who has made his name battling the neo-cons in America, has been lecturing and publishing in China for at least a decade. (

M said...

I think the theory is highly improbable.
"Ma-Hu 2011 Nobel Peace Taiwan Sellout Lovefest Tour"?
It is unlikely that the two will even meet before the 2012 election in Taiwan and the Chinese leadership transition.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks Don!

Anonymous said...

Actually, authoritarian governments are very logical, it's just that their logic is not that of democracies. In China, the more powerful person gets their way. Threats work. You can force weaker parties to submit. Thus, Chinese logically think they could easily force Norway (as if the country really controlled the Nobel prize) to not give it to a Chinese dissident. Hell, China manages to get this to work regarding arm sales to Taiwan, so why not on a rinky-dink dissident?

The problem is that the Nobel people cannot possibly fold to pressure. It would kill their brand, which as the other commenter pointed out, cannot afford any more damage.

Regarding Hu-Ma aspirations...maybe Ma. If Hu could get Taiwan back, the love of his countrymen would be more valuable than any Nobel prize.

Final note on Nobel prizes...they were idiots to give it to Obama in 2009. They should have saved that for 2011 when he will need all the help he can get, and could have had the fig-leaf of Afghan withdrawl.

Anonymous said...

Micheal, so according to your logic, Liu getting the price and leading the CCP to systematically denounce the NPP's importance and meaning for one year + pissing off the NP committee (and everybody else), somehow magically leads to said price being even more prestigious and valuable in case they will win it just 12 months later? :)

Michael Turton said...

pissing off the NP committee (and everybody else), somehow magically leads to said price being even more prestigious and valuable in case they will win it just 12 months later? :)

haha. So you mean next year if the prize is offered to Hu-Ma, then they won't take it?

Anonymous said...

I mean, it doesn't seem to be a reasonable strategy... Occam's razor.

Michael Turton said...

I agree with many of the comments, but I think we need to get in the habit of watching how Beijing's bluster manipulates us and how we underestimate BJ's savvy, and thinking critically about our assumptions. Thanks for all the great comments here.

Cathy said...

Now that Liu Xiaobo has won the Nobel Peace Prize I hope he will be discharged. The chinese government has to step forward and admit that they have made mistakes.

John Herodotus said...

Michael, when I first read your post, I have to confess that I dismissed it pretty quickly, for many of the reasons described here. But, perhaps there is something to it.

We have a regime that is ideologically confused, oscillating between communism, capitalism, nationalism, and Confucianism. Combined with that, it seems to be permitting and/or fostering different schools of thought, even democratic ones, as a way of keeping its options open. "Let a hundred flowers bloom", if you will.

We know that the regime and its workings are opaque at virtually every level of government, but that there is a left-right kind of tension, also.

We have the peculiarities of Chinese history. Many of those who favored a hard line against the student demonstrators in Tiananmen feared it, because they interpreted it as a resurrection of the Red Guards and therefore as reactionary. Liu Xiaobo's description of the student movement lends credence to that interpretation.

There have already been some fine descriptions of the perverse logic that works in authoritarian regimes, so I won't repeat them.

Having said all that, let me then ask if it is possible that a "liberal" faction in the government was attempting to provoke the West into pressuring China on Liu Xiaobo in order to bolster their position internally while a reactionary faction was trying to bully the West and throw its weight around as it has been in the Pacific recently?

Just as we are susceptible to Chinese influence because of her growing economic and military power, China has also shown herself to be sensitive to international opinion. Perhaps both of these forces have been active simultaneously?

mx said...

John, my take on it is that there are two competing factions within the CCP, the politicians/biz people and the military. Of course it gets muddled a bit as the PLA is also in business (Norinco).