Saturday, October 9, 2010



The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8,2010, to the imprisoned Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo, the co- author of Charter 08, a pro-democracy manifesto signed by more than 300 prominent Chinese scholars, writers, and activists and published online on Dec. 10, 2008—the 60th anniversary of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights---- could be counter-productive.

2.The Charter, emulating Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, calls for the implementation of the guarantees of China’s Constitution and for institutions in China upholding democratic reforms, human rights, and the rule of law. It warns of national disaster in the absence of political change and makes 19 recommendations to improve human rights in China, including the establishment of an independent judiciary, freedom of association and an end to one-party rule.

3. Istead of embarrassing the Chinese political leadership, the award has made it defiant as could be seen from the writings in the Chinese media condemning the award, which is seen as politically motivated. The Communist Party-controlled "Global Times" wrote in an editorial on October 9: "The controversy in the West over Liu Xiaobo's sentence is not based on legal concerns. They are trying to impose Western values on China. Obviously, the Nobel Peace Prize this year is meant to irritate China, but it will not succeed. On the contrary, the committee disgraced itself. The award however makes it clearer that it is difficult for China to win applause from the West during China's development, and China needs to be more determined and confident in choosing its own development path, which is different from Western approach.The Nobel committee made an unwise choice, but it and the political force it represents cannot dictate China's future growth.
China's success story speaks louder than the Nobel Peace Prize."

4. The award is also seen as another attempt to humiliate China similar to the attempt made before the Beijing Olympics of August,2008, to organise a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Games as a mark of Western disapproval of alleged human rights violations in China. The boycott move failed partly because the then US President George Bush was opposed to any boycott which could be seen as a Western-inspired humiliation of China and partly because the indignant Chinese people called for a boycott of Western goods and Western departmental stores in China.

5. In an article, the same issue of the "Global Times" quotes Shi Yinhong, a Professor in the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, as saying as follows: "The Nobel committee claims to be independent, but its decision to award the peace prize to Liu strategically caters to anti-China forces.The decision is aimed at humiliating China.Such a decision will not only draw the ire of the Chinese public, but also damage the reputation of the prize. "

6. The award is badly timed because it has come in the midst of a debate in China on the need for political re-structuring as a follow-up to the economic re-structuring which the country has undergone with great benefit since Deng Xiao-ping opened up the Chinese economy in 1978. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has been in the forefront of this debate and has been increasingly articulate in calling for greater transparency in governance and greater freedom of speech which would allow constructive criticism of the way China is governed. Advocates of political re-structuring have been pointing out that ultimately the economic re-structuring would have to be followed up by political re-structuring at an opportune time when the political opening-up would not lead to political and economic instability.

7. The confidence gained by the political leadership as a result of the successful handling of the economic crisis, which had led to the closure of a large number of export industries and consequent loss of millions of jobs, has encouraged the debate on the need for taking up the task of political re-structuring envisaged by Deng himself. An article carried by the "Global Times" on August 23 pointed out: "Wen's remarks about political reform (at Shenzhen) came 30 years after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping first raised the issue during an important speech on August 18, 1980, which was regarded as "the programmatic document for China's political restructuring."

8. Thus, the current debate on the need for political reforms is seen as nothing but the beginning of the implementation of a promise made by Deng himself in 1980. When Wen and others speak of the need for political reforms, they do not mean the winding-up of the one-party rule as fondly hoped for by human rights activists in the West, but the identification and eradication of the negative aspects of the one-party rule. When Wen talks of the need for freedom of speech , he means freedom to constructively criticise Government policies and working instead of having to implicitly support them. How to have public accountability under a one-party rule? That is one of the questions being posed during this debate.

9. It would have been in the interest of the West to let this debate develop and result in a genuine re-structuring of the political set-up in China. Instead, by giving the award to a dissident who has only limited following inside China and calling for political reforms, the Nobel Committee and those supporting its award would only strengthen the hands of those who are opposing any political restructuring of the Chinese set-up.

10. The Chinese leadership and people are fearful of any instability which could wipe out the considerable economic gains made by the country since 1978. The decision of the Nobel Committee to honour the dissident at a time of transition in China from economic to political re-structuring could rekindle fears of an externally-inspired attempt to destabilise the country. The ultimate losers will be the advocates of political re-structuring. ( 9-10-10)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: )


Paresh said...

Sir, do you believe a politically re-structured China would be any friendlier or more sensitive to India and its core interests? If yes, could you please give some insight as to how it would be beneficial? That would make interesting reading.

If no, then what is the harm in the West trying to destabilize China by such underhand methods? Why should we care if China re-structures its polity or not...

ambi said...

Writing is on the wall, sir! Though CPC is making brave & defiant face for outsiders, its confidance is shaken to the core (don’t get angry with me for saying this but as we normally say ‘unki fatt gayi hain’). One may argue that the award given to Mr. Liu is politically motivated, but it shld be appreciated. For many reasons!

The most important, CPC needs to be told by this civilised world, that though politically & financially it is increasing its influence it is still not that important that they ll do anything they want to do or they can dictate terms to others. After the release of the Chinese captain by Japan, PRC & its people had started acting as if they have ‘finally arrived’, that they have got enough political & financial influence in the world that they can do anything & get away with it. This is a good thing that they are learning now that world can afford to say ‘NO’ to them& that they are not that important. If PRC can humiliate Japanese govt before Japanese people, with its actions, then world can also humiliate Chinese Govt before Chinese people. I think Chinese government is so much angry not much because of the award given to Mr. Liu, but because they had applied lot of political pressure agst this, still the Committee went ahead with its decision. I applaud that. CPC is learning the ground realities now; it’s a good reality check for them.

You argue that Mr. Liu Xiabao has limited influence in China. If that is the case then why he is behind the bars? Because it is not the case it seems.

‘Political reforms’ thing is a big BS. Everyone knows this. There will be no political reforms in China. That’s just CPC propaganda for Chinese masses to calm them. To be a bird is to fly in the open sky. A bird in the golden cage is not a bird in the real sense.

As ex Fed Chmn. Alan Greenspan mentions in his ‘The Age of Turbulence’ that in USSR state was everything. State use to control all aspects of its citizen’s life! State used to decide what he ll think, how he ll think. State used to decide what hell love what he ll hate. State used to decide how much he will earn, how much he will save, how much he will spend, where he ll invest. What he ll buy? How much he ll eat (through rationing), what the consumer requires was not decided by consumers but by the state. So once the state was forced to start political reforms & open its economy for outsiders, it was a disaster. Because manufacturers did not know what to produce & consumers did not know what to buy. Now Business houses & its citizens were of their own. Due to decades of being managed by the state, they had lost their ability to think of their own & take decisions for themselves. (continued)

ambi said...

(continued from earlier post)

Compare to that when India opened its economy under pressure, initially our business houses retreated agst big MNC’s but then they gained ground & returned with resilience. Be it Infosys, Wipro, Tata, Birla, Ambanis, or many other small & big business houses or ordinary masses, they think of their own & take decisions of their own. CPC knows this, hence it is damn scarred. As Chmn Alan Greenspan mentions due to high inflation, situation is panning out similar to which Mao exploited to his own benefit. CPC knows this.

That’s why I think Pres. Barack Obama has committed big mistake by giving stimulus & avoiding creative destruction. He acted like a socialist leader of the socialist state, & hence the current problem. Americans are free people who can think & decide for themselves. If he had allowed mkt forces to play their role, US economy ld have got a short time ‘BIG JOLT’ but soon the recovery ld have made its way soon.

What is more worrying for CPC is that this incident indicates that USA still has more political influence then PRC, which it may use agst it in currency warfare. Its rude awakening for them. Its catch 22 for CPC. Currency war has just begun. & China ll be casualty in it. It is doomed if it starts ‘political reforms’ & equally doomed if it doesn’t. Get ready for a big show. ‘Tian Men Square II’ just on a larger square.

ambi said...

oops! pls read the last line 'on a larger scale.'