Xiaobo – An Awarded Justly Won
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 18 Oct 2010
Noam Chomsky first sentence in his most recent article pertaining to China reads: “Of all the “threats” to world order, the most consistent is democracy, unless it is under imperial control, and more generally, the assertion of independence. “ This is both awful and insulting. It is awful because of its ridiculous reductionism. I would like to see the reaction of Xanana Gusamo to the charge that the government of Timor Leste is under imperial control. I would also like to hear what the latest Nobel Prize recipient would say to the charge that democracy is a threat (diacritical marks). Today in places like Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan civil society is under siege by a variety of forces who wish to see their programs and personnel eliminated. These civil society groups are struggling with opening democratic space. They do so at great personal risk. They do not see democracy as a threat but as an inspiration and a hope. This is where the intellectual fetishism of Chomsky loses its way and enters a minefield of destructive polemic.
All of us working with civil society and democratization groups in Asia expected that Liu Xiaobo would be awarded the prize last year. We are overjoyed that he was awarded it this year. That China branded and condemned Liu as a criminal and denounced the Nobel prize Committee speaks volumes.
The leaders of the People’s Republic of China will meet in Beijing in mid-October. Crucial decisions may be made about the issue of desperately needed political reform. Western intellectuals condemning democracy without even defining it play into whose hands?
The most recent moves by China concerning its maritime borders as well its use of trade sanctions on rare materials are sending shock waves throughout the region. That China has surpassed Japan as the worlds second largest economy is a monumental achievement of the government and the people. Yet might and right always need to be reconciled. China’s per capita wealth is, however, ten times below that of Japan. Moreover in China today, income disparities are widespread, riots numbering more than 80,000 rock the countryside, product safety is problematic and accountable and transparency non-existent. The central government knows it is in economic and political crisis. The government does not know whether to open up and reform or to continue an iron-fisted rule. The stronger the reaction to Mr. Liu’s Peace Prize the deeper the internal debate in China.
In the late 1970s, an electrician named Wei Jingsheng called on China to take on a fifth modernization – democracy. For this he earned the personal enmity of Deng Xiaoping. He was jailed for 15 years. Wei easily could have been China’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner. That honor has gone to Liu. Mr. Liu, who first gained notice in 1989 after saving lives during the military crackdown on pro-democracy student demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. In 2008 he helped organize a movement around a 4,000 word document called “ Charter 08.” For this he was jailed.. Charter 08 was modeled after “Charter 77,” a document issued in 1977 by intellectuals in Czechoslovakia asserting the principles of democracy. A key sentence in Charter 08 reads: “By departing from these [universal] values the Chinese government’s approach to ‘modernization’ has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse.”
For Peace Studies to be taken seriously a set of standards need to be applied. One of these is democracy. Furthermore, all imperial/military acts by any government must be condemned. I remember having a conversation with a civil society activist in Kabul. We were standing. He asked me what I thought of President Karzai. When I answered that if that if American and allies are promoting him as a democrat then we are doomed. He then said, “OK, now we can sit and talk.” Pandering to China and ignoring or worse yet excusing its defaults does not promote peace, deters development, and in complicit in deterring and delaying needed democratic reforms.
Paul D. Scott, is on the Steering Committee of ARDA (The Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia).
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Oct 2010.
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