Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen in this undated photo released by his family. Photo: Handout via Reuters
Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is seen in this undated photo released by his family. Photo: Handout via Reuters

Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has succumbed to liver cancer. Lionized in the West, his passing was little noted in China. Just a smidgen of reflection would explain the dichotomy.

Liu did not win the Nobel Prize for physics or economics or any of the others administered by the Nobel Committee in Stockholm. He won the Peace Prize administered out of Oslo.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee is appointed by the Norwegian parliament and has been responsible for the most politicized honor among the Nobel prizes.

Since there hasn’t been a whole lot of peace around the world, it’s understandable that there were more years when a Peace Prize was not awarded than for any of the other Nobel Prizes. Some of the committee’s award choices were matters for debate.

The Peace Prize has been the most burdened in controversy. For example, some say the committee gave the prize to the Dalai Lama in part to atone for repeatedly passing over Mahatma Gandhi, universally recognized as the most deserving of the honor never to have received it.

The committee also rushed headlong in the opposite direction and couldn’t wait to see what Barrack Obama was going to do as president of the United States. They awarded Obama the Peace Prize shortly after he was elected president just to flaunt Norwegian indignation at the warmongering policies of George W Bush, Obama’s predecessor.

Alas for the prestige and credibility of the Norwegian committee and the Peace Prize, Obama would be hard-pressed to point to any achievements toward peace in his two terms as the US president.

If it’s easy to become a Peace Prize laureate, it’s hardly surprising that it’s a low bar for anyone to become a nominee for the honor. All it takes is possessing credentials with the proper slant.

The late Harry Wu (aka Wu Hongda) is a good example. The aftermath of his death last year has revealed him to be a thief and philanderer. He stole the money set aside for Chinese human-rights activists and he was a serial groper of women.

Wu rose to fame when he was arrested as he tried to enter China under disguise. After his much publicized release, he trotted around the world as a self-proclaimed defender of human rights in China. His anti-China criticism and attendant publicity got him nominated for the Peace Prize.

Wu and his ilk have learned that there is a career in paimapi, a Chinese saying that literally means petting the horse’s rump or, in a cruder version, inducing equine flatulence. It’s a Chinese expression for obsequious flattery.

The profit is in petting the Westerner’s mapi, by expressing admiration for the Western concept for democracy as if only through democracy can one achieve human rights and dignity.

The important difference between Wu and Liu is that while Wu remained in the safety of the protective West, Liu went back to China from a teaching position in the US to advocate the overthrow of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Liu even expressed the idea that 300 years as a colony of a Western power would have done China wonders and enabled it to catch up to the standards of Western democracy. That was paimapi of the first order. No wonder the West adored him.

Conveniently overlooked by Liu was that in the nearly three decades since Liu went back to China, it has become the second-largest or largest economy in the world, depending on the yardstick used.

According to Pew’s regular polls of the sentiments of people in China, their satisfaction and approval rating of the country’s one-party rule and CPC has hovered around 80% in most recent years.

Thus we have a situation where Western countries that boast of popular approval ratings under 50% hectoring China to reform. They encourage China to change its system of government so that its popularity can be more like the West’s.

May Liu Xiaobo rest in peace. It is difficult to know how long he will be remembered in the West. He is already a forgotten man in China.

George Koo retired from a global advisory services firm where he advised clients on their China strategies and business operations. Educated at MIT, Stevens Institute and Santa Clara University, he is the founder and former managing director of International Strategic Alliances. He is currently a board member of Freschfield's, a novel green building platform.

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