How I Look at the Norwegian Nobel Committee's Choice for 2010
Tang Guoqiang

The decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Peace Prize for 2010 to Mr. Liu Xiaobo, from my point of view, is a mistake, because Mr. Liu was found guilty of breaching Article 105 of the Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China. The Committee's choice, a deliberate disrespect the judicial sovereignty of China, has shown how little the Committee understands my country. Then we see some governments and politicians also support this wrong decision. This is hard to understand and accept on the part of many in China.

To sum up the comments and opinions in support to this wrong decision, there are mainly two issues at stake.

The first question concerns whether the current political system in China suits the country as it is today. Should China copy the western system or follow its own path?

In the opinions of some people and politicians and media in Norway and some western countries, China's economic progress is correct and laudable. And yet, China's political system is wrong, or at least stagnant.

Then my question is : what is the purpose of a political system? How can a sovereign country achieve all-round social and economic progress and meet the needs of the people without a proper political system? Is political system only and empty framework hanging there only for the sake of being there? Good interactions between the economic and political systems of a country are the bedrocks of successful social development. A wrong political system just does not have any chance to lead and support sustained and robust economic and social progress on a massive scale. Then why so many in the west deliberately blur this common-sense?

So much so that the west adores its own political system, it would love to have it globalized. The question is why such a "politically correct" system is at the moment also meeting so much economic and social difficulty? Why for decades the west has been promoting its system in other parts of the world, but yet to produce convincing results?

The fact is that, many western governments are also making reforms to overcome their weaknesses and improve their governance. China, together with other developing countries, learns from the west, but more importantly, we have to follow our own reality. If the achievement of China in the last three decades is acknowledged, then one should also acknowledge that China had made the right choice for its path and it has a right political system and has followed the right policies. Economic progress cannot be separated from an enabling political system.

Admittedly, our system is not perfect. It will take us a very long time to continuously improve our socialist system, which is only at its initial stage. At the just concluded fifth plenary session of the 17th National Party Congress, it was admitted that many challenges are facing us, including weakness in economic structure, a still-fragile agricultural sector, disparities in urban and rural development and in income distribution and a plethora of social issues crying out for attention.

Just in case you may not know, among 1.3 billion Chinese, there are still 150 million living under the poverty line and 160 million senior citizens above 60 years of age who need to be taken care of . We are under pressure for creating 270 million jobs and at the same time twelve million more people come into the labor force every single year. The suggested 12th five-year program is going to focus very much on the well-being of the people, with priority on creating more jobs. We will speed up the development of social programs to ensure our citizens' equal access to basic public services. And we will make more efforts to readjust income distribution to make sure that our development benefits the public with rising prosperity and quality of life. If you follow carefully the progress in China, you will find the Chinese people very interested in national development and participating in debating major policy decisions, and the Party and Government quite capable of accepting criticisms and doing self-criticisms for improvement. This is rightfully the key ingredient for China to succeed in reform. It is just often overlooked by outsiders, especially the western world.

China is in a process of rapid changes. From my personal experience, China has made big headway in democratic policy making, in ensuring people's right to know, to participate, to express, to supervise and in the rule of law. If one compares the China two or three decades ago and China as it is today, it is not too difficult to find that many of the issues we discussed back then have long been addressed with the advancement of our reforms. And yet, now we are facing and working on new issues. That's why we are committed to reform and opening-up to develop socialist democracy and human rights, not for accommodating foreign pressure ,but for the need of our own development and our people,

The second question is : is this about freedom of expression or the rule of law?

The "freedom of expression" was too often politicized in the Cold War. Now that the world has come out of the Cold War and it should not be judged from and ideological point of view any more, After over 30 years of reform and opening up, China is now already a vibrant society when it comes to expression of views and opinions, China is among the world's top publishers with over 2,000 newspapers and over 9,000 magazines. We are home to millions of websites and over 200 million blogs. More than 4 million blog entries or comments are made every single day, making the Chinese cybersphere the most populous ground for expression in the world, In China people enjoy freedom of expression, provided that it is exercised within the limits of law. Undermining national security by abusing the freedom of expression is an offence and will be punished by law. The border between freedom of expression and rule of law should not, and cannot be blurred. When the border is crossed, it is no longer an issue of freedom of expression, but one of the rule of law. Such a border exists, not only in China, but also in most countries in the world.

One does not need to be reminded that according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the exercise of the freedom of expression carries with it "special duties and responsibilities", "for respecting the rights and reputations of others", and "for the protection of national security or public order…" According to the United States Code, "Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned nor more that ten years…"

It is not uncommon in western countries to apply criminal disposition to individuals for seditious words or actions that threaten national security and social order, Freedom of expression cannot exceed the boundary of law in your countries, but you never wee it as a human rights issue here.

The western countries protect their values and political system by law. China too has the right to do so. Is someone from China worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize just because he happens to advocate western values and replacing the Chinese system with a western system? Isn't that double standard?

I have noticed that Mr. Geir Lundestad, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, recently confessed in the UK that the Committee's choice for 2010 was indeed political and targeted at China. More than two decades after the end of the Cold War that was supposed to end ideological divide, a prize for peace set up by Mr. Alfred Nobel over a century ago is still harnessed as a political boot to trample countries considered "di9fferent". It is such a pity.

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