In a truly fascinating event today, China has announced that it will establish its own version of the Nobel Peace Prize called the “Confucius Prize.” The award is coincidentally set to be presented the day before the Nobel Prize and has been touted as a more prestigous honor by Chinese Communist Party tabloids. The chairman of the Confucius Prize, Tan Changliu, claims that the award has not been created by the government, but the facts seem to suggest otherwise.
China has despised the Nobel Peace Prize for a long time, and these feeling were further exacerbated by this year’s selection of Liu Xiaobo. Liu is a life-long non-violent Chinese dissident who was selected for his struggle against Chinese human rights violations. He penned an essay on political reform titled Charter 08, an act that would equate to treason in the United States. Ironically, the Chinese Foreign Ministry maintains that Liu’s actions “completely counter the principle of the prize.” Maybe. Or maybe Chinese law runs counter to the principles of the prize. It is difficult to make the argument that civil rights violations and restrictions on individual freedom equate to peaceful practices.
Granted, for all of its prestige, the Nobel Peace Prize ain’t the most legitimate award, especially considering that Barack Obama was the recipient last year. An escalation of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, offers of stealth war planes to Israel, secret bombings in Yemen, war games on the Korean Peninsula, and hundreds of drone strikes on Pakistan later, and it seems like that decision was a bit of a stretch. Oh…and Al Gore won as well…enough said.
Given these blunders, it is difficult to make a case against Chinese denouncements of the award. However, for all of the head scratching winners of the prize, it seems as though the committee got it right this time, and as much as China would be right to say that the award is a political hoax, their nomination for the 1st annual Confucius Prize is about 20x worse than Al Gore.
In theory, the winner of the new award should represent the way China would define the most honorable global figure of the past year. To this end, the Confucius committe selected a man named Lien Chan, former Vice President of Taiwan, for building “a bridge between the mainland and Taiwan.”
Taiwan courageously broke off from communist Chinese society under Mao Zedong in the 40s to pursue a democratically elected Republic. This is certainly a nobel aim, but Lien does not necessarily represent the best of Taiwanese independence. Here are some of his more infamous achievements:
- He likened Taiwanese Democratic reforms to the Velvet Revolution.
- He is notorious for using his Chinese gang connections to gain billions of dollars in illegal quantities of “black gold.”
- In his election campaigns, Lien has purportedly given away illegally gained property to bribe local officials.
- Last but not least, he is the first Taiwanese leader since Chiang Kai-Sek to travel to mainland China to meet with Chinese leaders, establishing that “Taiwan is part of China and that the two parties would work together to prevent formal Taiwan independence.” Seems a bit contrary to peace and freedom, does it not?
According to the Chinese, the Confucius Prize “is a greater honour than the Nobel because China has more than one billion citizens, while Norway is tiny and its committee could be inevitably biased and fallacious.” OK, that would be a fair criticism if logic provided that a larger population would provide a less biased outcome. This assumption seems tenuous at best, but let’s say you buy into the theory. So, China now has its chance to walk the walk, and they don’t do much to further their case. They nominated a pro-Chinese, anti-Democratic, corrupt, Taiwanese official with a history of opposing much needed societal reforms. Unbiased? Well, the answer is fairly obvious.
So, on the one hand is a civil rights activist who has opposed inhumane Chinese policies for his entire life, and on the other is a political scumbag with an affinity for restrictions on freedom and a reputation for less than ethical political practices. As much as it is tempting to make the claim that the Nobel Peace Prize is a farce, it is way more legitimate than this new Chinese propaganda machine.