AND THE PEACE PRIZE GOES TO…A WARMONGER: Liu Xiaobo isn’t such a nice guy after all

Ted Sprague


“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”


What has our society become when we begin to bestow the highest distinction in peacemaking to warmongers? Eager to rectify their mistake of giving last year’s Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama, who just signed a $60-billion war funding bill this summer, the Norwegian “Minipax” moved heaven and earth to find a winner who won’t embarrass them this time around.


Their choice fell upon Liu Xiaobo, a well-known Chinese dissident who was thrown in jail for co-signing Charter 08, a manifesto signed by Chinese intellectuals that demands democratic reforms in China. The Nobel Peace Prize committee thought they had it all figured out. Liu doesn’t have the power to send troops to “troubled” regions. His signature cannot declare war. Little did they know, this seemingly harmless, mild-mannered dissident turns out to be a staunch militarist.


While millions of Americans filled the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq, Liu argued in an open letter (“American attack on Iraq,” Shi ji sha long lun tan, 2003) that the war was good for humankind, as were all other wars fought by the U.S., with the sole exception of the Vietnam War. This apostle of peace and democracy carries the torch of American patriotism even further than many homegrown, flag-waving Republicans.


Trying to emulate Martin Luther King, Jr., Liu talked about “counter[ing] the hostility of the regime with the best intentions, and defus[ing] hate with love.” (“I have no enemies,” Foreign Policy, December 23, 2009). This liberal democrat likes to cloak himself with non-violent messages while handing out guns to average Joes and Janes and encouraging them to ship out to spread democracy. Liu’s fellow liberal dissident, Jiao Guobiao, even wrote a poem about how much he wanted to fight in Iraq:


If not this life I want to be an American soldier in my next life

I would like to join and I wish to die

Shoot me! Shoot me!


In 1988, when interviewed by a Hong Kong journalist, Liu declared that China would have been better under colonial rule for 300 years: “In 100 years of colonialism, Hong Kong has changed to what we see today. With China being so big, of course it would take 300 years of colonialism for it to be able to transform into how Hong Kong is today. I have my doubts as to whether 300 years would be enough.” Suffice it to say, he is parroting the colonial ideology that the savages of the third world need to be civilized with whips and chains.


The likes of Liu have been put in the spotlight by the Western media as the leaders of China’s democratic movement. There’s no doubt that China needs deeper democracy. However, these liberals cannot be trusted to lead the movement. They are notoriously timorous, inconsistent, and half-hearted. Their democracy is the democracy of the propertied class.


Charter 08, despite its pleasant democratic phraseology, is in reality calling for more privatization and an expansion of the free market. Prominent economist Mao Yushi, the third signatory of the charter, claimed that “the minimum wage is meaningless and not beneficial for the poor” and that “only by protecting the interests of the rich preferentially can we make the poor rich.”


This doesn’t mean that China is a worker-friendly state. Far from it: China is moving rapidly toward the free market and is privatizing public sectors left and right. However, it wants to do so on its own terms. While liberals like Liu cause a massive headache to Chinese officials because of their international popularity, the real threat to the Chinese government lies in the growing strikes by millions of workers who are thrown into factories by the thousands and there learn the true meaning of socialism.


(McGill Daily (Student Newspaper of the students of McGill University, Montreal, ,  October 25, 2010)




Compiled by Daya Varma


Sprague’s McGill Daily article  was brought to  the attention of many others including Herman Rosenfeld, a trade unionist and me  by  William Dere, a Chinese Canadian with a long history of political activism.  I wrote to William that Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo is an anti-China gesture.  Here is what followed:


Herman Rosenfeld:


None of this justifies the utter lack of basic liberal democratic rights that Chinese citizens like this fellow (and protesting workers) have. The use of harsh prison camps, the lack of access to an honest and impartial judiciary, no presumption of innocence, and the arbitrary use of imprisonment and force has no place in the modern world. It reeks of the Stalin era and is not socialist in any sense. He may be an asshole, but his lack of rights reflects the lack of any real democracy in China, for both those who wish to have a quicker move towards full capitalism and those who want a move in the other direction.


If we haven’t learned that lesson, we have learned nothing.


One more comment. Unfortunately, the Nobel peace prize has nothing to do with peace, but does relate to support for activists in different countries that reflect struggles for bourgeois democratic political rights and reforms. That this fellow supports US imperialist war aims and further neo-liberalization of China only shows the bankruptcy of this prize.


Daya Varma:


Hi Herman:  What you say is true. However, I do not know what socialism is. Our vision of socialism is based on Lenin-Stalin-Soviet Union not withstanding the justified disgust of many (like you and me) against Stalin. Marx defines capitalism but only projects into socialism. He could not articulate about a thing of the future (i.e. socialism) as he could about the present (i.e. capitalism). Every one has an imaginary and idealistic notion of socialism, and so far it can only be conjectured as state control of everything the highest (or lowest) point of which has been reached in North Korea.


My guess is that capitalist economy, independent of state structure, is incompatible with the restrictions that exist in China; sooner than later it will fall apart but not like the former Soviet Union.


At the same time, there is some difference between dissenters in the Soviet Union and China. Key dissenters in Soviet Union were for socialism, humanism and democracy (Bukharin was on the top). Those in China so far have been capitalist dogs (except some in the Tiananmen episode) or imperialist prop-up like Dalai Lama.


William Dere:


This is an eternal debate on the state of socialism in the world, especially by people who don’t have to live it. Abstract text book socialism can have infinite variations here in the developed imperialist countries. What is socialism, democracy and other western concepts are not that important for 99% of the Chinese people.


Mao’s socialism with a Chinese face is to free China from foreign domination and to raise the population from poverty to provide the basics needs of life as the starting point. What develops during the New Democratic Revolution is still in evolution. Good or bad, this is what is happening in China today. There are 78 million members in the CCP. Life in the party also reflects what’s going on in society.


During my visits to China the last few years, people laugh when I bring up the issue of democracy, freedom of speech and expression. They say we are free to talk about everything we want but we don’t want to challenge the Communist party for no reason. Some people, like Liu Xiaobo do it for their own reasons. Some people believe that political reform will come from within the CP in an orderly fashion. Chinese society is a lot more open now than it was in 1989. Everyone fears the chaos that will come with a weakened party, a la Yugoslavia. Without the control of the CP, rapacious capitalism will be rampant and foreign powers would gain control of the Chinese economy. These are the fears and challenges faced by people on the street in China. 


Good to trade ideas on these issues, but we will not resolve anything.

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