China has pressured at least 18 countries, including Russia, Colombia, Egypt, and Cuba, to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in Oslo, Norway on Friday.
But according to Chinese media, boycotting the Nobel Prize ceremony won’t do China any good, and could even damage the country’s international relations.
China’s move to lead a boycott of the ceremony, they argue, may only draw more attention to the conditions of Liu and his wife: The Nobel Peace Prize winner is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion of state power, and his wife is essentially under house arrest.
A Dec. 8 editorial in the World Journal, called “It’s Not a Smart Move for China to Boycott the Nobel Prize Ceremony,” argues that the boycott is a surprising move for a nation that wants to be seen as modern. Editors write that it may even increase the divide between China and the West.
“It was already hard for the world to understand why Liu Xiaobo, an academic, would face such harsh sentencing for his speech,” the editorial argues. Beijing’s boycott of the ceremony, editors write, “generates the idea that ‘we are back to the old times’ in people’s minds, which doesn’t fit the image of a modernized nation that China has been building, and deepens the negative image of the Beijing leadership.”
The editorial criticizes Beijing’s leaders for being shortsighted -- sacrificing China’s future diplomatic relations for one show of might. Editors write that the display could do irreparable harm to the image in the minds of people around the world.
“Now Beijing’s greatest challenge isn’t the countries that decided to attend the ceremony … but global citizens, especially those living in the Western world, because not only are they paying more attention to the ceremony, they are also reminded by the rallies and demonstrations happening around them that China is a uncivilized country that can’t tolerate an academic. Liu’s tragic image will be further dramatized in people’s hearts, which, in turn, will not only undo China’s past efforts to change its image, but will create opportunities for the ‘anti-China’ force to build in foreign countries and create more tension in its diplomatic relations.”
The World Journal editorial concludes that Beijing’s leadership should reflect on its strategy: “In preparation for its international leadership role, Beijing should engage in new thinking in addressing the Liu Xiaobo incident, and connect to the rest of the world.”
In fact, China’s boycott may already have impacted its diplomatic relations with other countries.
An article in the Sing Tao reports that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution Wednesday night calling on President Obama to continue to put pressure on China to release Liu Xiaobo.
One of the cosponsors of the bill, the United States’ first Chinese-American Congressman David Wu, also expressed strong criticism of China in a press conference. He said that China owes an apology to its citizens and to its 5,000 years of history for not recognizing one of its own citizens in receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
To understand how Chinese Americans are responding to the news, the Sing Tao Daily surveyed 100 Chinese residents of New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through phone and personal interviews. Although they didn't necessarily approve of Chinese dissident Liu (less than half said they supported him), the majority of those interviewed believed Beijing was overreacting in its handling of the Nobel Peace Prize.
China’s other controversial decision – to create its own Confucius Peace Prize, which was awarded to Taiwan’s former vice president Lien Chan for his work building China-Taiwan relations – is generating skepticism and even amusement in Chinese media, especially since the Chinese government has officially denied any connection to organizers of the prize.
While the news has made headlines in Western media, Chinese media tend to take it less seriously.
“The Confucius Peace Prize is a Joke” reads the headline of a World Journal article.
A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Culture told the newspaper that if the government was really going to establish a Confucius Peace Prize, it would be taken more seriously and would not send “temporary notices” to awardees.
Chinese media report that they have never heard of the “president” of the Confucius Peace Prize Committee, Tan Changliu, and largely treated the news as a joke.
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