The Nobel Committee and Chinese values
According to the BBC, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee insisted yesterday — on the eve of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s award ceremony — that its decision was not meant to impose Western values on China.
That such a statement is even possible says a lot about how far culturalism has gone. It is impossible to imagine the Committee making such a statement about Sakharov’s prize, or Mandela’s (the latter comparison of course seems odd, but the Afrikaner ideology was very much one of Africanness).
The committee’s defensive posture is of course in complete agreement with that of the Chinese government, which — while the police summons all restaurant owners in Peking to warn them to report anyone celebrating Liu’s prize — accuses the committee precisely of a Western values imperialism. Is there anything to this?
Obviously, any Nobel prize is to some extent a political, and hence a “values”, decision. Particularly so the peace prize. Most of the awards are contentious. The awarding of the prize to Obama was, if you will, the imposition of a particular set of values on the current majority of Americans who do not like what he stands for. Yet the committee, again, did not feel compelled to defend itself.
To a degree, Liu is an anachronism. His loyalty to a set of liberal-universalist ideas was more at home in 1980s China than that of today. It is likely that most Chinese, if they knew who Liu was, would have little understanding or sympathy for his ideas (although they would have more for his doggedness). But the same can be said about many other winners of the prize. The committee’s reaction, insofar as at is more than a euphemistic but disingenuous claim of apoliticalness, testifies to the proportions the culture fetish has attained.