by Austin Bay
October 12, 2010
Dissident Liu Xiaobo's Nobel Peace Prize has scared China's
communist elites. The Beijing government has responded viciously by vilifying
Liu and the prize selection committee. China's cyber-sheriffs have tried to
keep news of Liu's award off the Internet. Its secret police shadow Liu's wife.
The People's Republic's foreign ministry has even snubbed Norwegian diplomats
engaged in discussions about the fishing industry.
Beijing's full-throttle propaganda, political and police
overreaction speaks volumes about the party elites' insecurity seeded by their
failure to address China's array of internal challenges. The Communist Party's
apparatchiks, state billionaires and military princes know the war for the
terms of 21st century modernity rages within their country, and it is shaking
the foundation of their sophisticated and slippery tyranny.
But first some background. Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo
earned his Peace Prize. Since 1989 and the Tiananmen Square massacre, Liu has
insistently demonstrated the physical and moral courage promoting genuine
change demands. 2009's dubious prizewinner, U.S. President Barack Obama,
rhetorically encouraged hope. When Liu says "no" to China's single
party political system, he embodies hope and inspires by visceral example.
Liu long ago joined the distinguished line of brave men and
women trapped in police states who choose, in the name of liberty, to confront
their nations' authoritarian ideologies and instruments of terror. Many of
these heroes die unheralded in a jail or an alley or a ditch. The tyrants erase
their memory and hide their sacrifice.
A fortunate few, like Liu, gain international notoriety.
Fame provides a degree of protection for the dissidents, and a Nobel Peace
Prize adds political armor. The peace prize certainly empowered and protected
Lech Walesa when he and his Solidarity union struggled against Poland's
communist government and its masters in Moscow.
A Peace Prize, however, does not guarantee freedom of travel
or even release from police detention. The 1935 prizewinner, German pacifist
and fervent anti-Nazi Carl von Ossietzky, died of tuberculosis in 1938 -- his
hospital bed monitored by the Gestapo. Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991
prizewinner, remains under arrest.
China is Myanmar's staunchest ally. A savage, impoverished
dictatorship that brooks no dissent runs Myanmar. Cash-rich China is run by a
silky smooth party dictatorship that stifles dissent.
The difference between savage poverty and silky wealth is
significant, but the common point remains dictatorship. The Chinese government
continues to portray Liu as a criminal and his prize as illicit interference in
China's internal affairs. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu made that clear
during a ministry press conference: "Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to a
criminal serving a prison sentence," Ma said, "shows a lack of
respect for China's judicial system."
Ma's propaganda line is supposed to stoke both
neo-nationalist and paleo-imperial Chinese indignation. Peel its stinking onion
back a layer, and Ma is damning the prize committee for handing China a
"loss of face." Those scoundrels in Oslo failed to give China's
communist emperors appropriate political and cultural deference. As a result,
China's vice minister of agriculture canceled his meeting with Norway's
fisheries minister. Take that, insouciant Scandinavians.
Touting Chinese courts as venues of justice is a reach.
Economic corruption is the chief complaint among China's hundreds of millions
of discontented citizens, but Beijing knows police and judicial corruption also
rile the populace.
The Chinese government's heavy-handed reaction to Liu's
prize provides an insight into China's great 21st century internal struggle.
China's economic success is impressive, but it teeters on a very iffy political
deal. China's privileged communist elites seek the benefits of economic
liberalization (including free trade) without concomitant political liberalization.
The blood of 2000 Chinese citizens slain at Tiananmen Square demonstrated the
lengths the communists will go to enforce this bargain.
China's continued economic growth, however, requires modern
technology and communications. The Internet is an essential economic tool, but
one that frustrates an authoritarian government's ability to deny or control
information. Over time, an informed population becomes an opinionated
population, and dissident opinions endanger the communists' harsh bargain.
Ultimately, the communist government confronts the human
spirit's will to freedom, with Liu as its courageous personification. No wonder
the government is afraid.