USA versus China, and a Peace Prize
EDITORIAL, 17 January 2011
#147 | Johan Galtung
Two Hong Kong researchers, Barry Sautman (email@example.com) and Yan Hairong, have analyzed this in “The Ignoble Hero: Liu Xiaobo and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize”. The issue merits attention as it highlights peace theory and practice. They have been suspected of toeing the Beijing line. But theirs is different: “the Chinese government should not have imprisoned Liu, but he does not deserve to be a Nobel laureate”. Nobody should be arrested for opinions only, and if China has other reasons, then put the cards on the table for public scrutiny.
Charter 08 is not about peace, but about Western state theory, with division of powers, independent legislature and judiciary, democracy and human rights, like the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, adding federalism, environment and social security. And free markets and private property. Right wing social democracy. There is a Chinese point, also good: abolition of the hukou registration system, like in Japan (koseki), Vietnam and North, not South, Korea. But peace or interstate relations are not addressed.
Of course a prize can be given for a path-breaking movie, speech or charter that opens roads to peace, if not yet in fact, at least in theory (if neither fact, nor theory, then the decision seems flawed). The peace prize was not given to the Charter group, however, but to one person, Liu. And that makes it indispensable to know what Liu stands for.
Asked in 1988, 33 years old, under what conditions China could achieve real historical change he famously replied “Three hundred years of colonization. It took one hundred years for Hong Kong”. He confirmed this in 2006, 50+ years old, adding “To choose Westernization is to choose to be human”.
Imagine some American had argued during or after the War of Independence in favor of London rule, or some Norwegian during or after the Second World War had argued the return of Nazi occupation with Quisling. Such people no doubt existed, but may have preferred to keep silent, not trusting the freedom of expression. However, that is not the point, but that the Norwegian parliament’s peace prize committee knew this (given research by Norwegian and international experts), awarded him the prize, and indirectly endorsed Liu’s view on colonialism.
Liu also has very strong views against Chinese culture as “wimpy, spineless and fucked-up”, a “hodge-podge which is neither fish nor fowl”. Of course freedom of expression implies the freedom to criticize one’s own culture, including confucianism, like Liu does. However, that is not the point, but that the Norwegian parliament’s committee knew this, and indirectly endorsed Liu’s view by awarding him the prize. Liu is enthusiastic about US warfare, “the Korean war, the confrontation across the Taiwan Strait, and the Vietnam war”. “The war against Saddam Hussein is just! The decision by President Bush is right!” He blames Palestinians in the Israel/Palestine conflict as “provocateurs”. Such views are often found in the West, like at the top of the Norwegian Labor Party, now waging war with the USA in Afghanistan, and Liu should enjoy the same freedom. But that is not the point, but that the Norwegian parliament’s committee knew this, and indirectly endorsed Liu’s view on war by awarding the prize.
This does not meet Nobel’s criteria (Fredrik Heffermehl, The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel Really Wanted, Praeger, 2010; also in Chinese and Russian). The decision was simply seriously flawed, logically, empirically and theoretically.
Let us focus on civil and political rights–CPR–only; inside a country CPR may be each other’s cause and effect, but “peace” to most, like to Alfred Nobel, is between countries. If the “right to life” was extended across borders CPR would ban war, and ban exploitation; with millions dying from direct and structural violence. But CPR do not. Countries high on CPR like USA, Israel and UK are also very high on belligerence (number of wars/number of years of existence).
And the theory? What we see is rather that countries high on CPR seem to feel entitled to warfare to impose human rights. But, like democracy, human rights must come from the inside, not imposed, even by breaking them. Free and fair multi-party national elections can even legitimize going to war, and their absence in China comes with almost no inter-state war. If we add to that definition “transparency and dialogue”, then WikiLeaks shows the lack thereof. Democracy by majority serves as license to kill rather than a duty to be transparent across borders and use dialogue for solutions.
How about the freedom to argue, loud and clear, against one’s country’s aggressiveness? Excellent, and that has put many in the three countries in prison. Ossietzky can be seen in that light. But Liu’s aim is China, and he endorses war.
But would not CPR and democracy create peace in China?
Sautman and Yan show that this is not necessarily so. CPR may block economic and social human rights, which then leads to violence. Both USA and China need both, and should cooperate on both rather than using deficits as political arms. The USA is assisted in this by a client country. And that country should have given the right to award the Nobel Peace Prize to others when entering an alliance – NATO-1949 – with one of them.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 January 2011.
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