The arrogant dragon. China and the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I have a penchant for China. I know the Chinese people. I’ve seen how they live and think. And how they look and smile.

And because of this special leaning I have followed with quite some concern, especially in the last few years, the progressive transformation of this great country, which given the ups and downs of history is becoming the world’s strongest capitalist power.

For a long time I have underscored that through outsourcing of production to satisfy greed and to make money by any means, having made China into the “world’s factory” in which, all profits go to the state..., without concern for working conditions or even the most elementary respect for human rights, is not only a huge error and an insult to the Chinese people, but also a serious destabilizing force worldwide.

Being to a large extent guilty of the above, the world’s most powerful countries have exquisitely looked the other way. We don’t really understand the reality of that great country, hiding behind that permanent and traditional smile. We are not allowed to observe what actually transpires there. Since this is China, which buys our treasury bonds and manufactures our trade-marked goods, it is better not to ask. Do we know how many people are executed there for capital offenses each year? Amnesty International estimates that there are several thousands... but the Chinese authorities don’t publicize the figures. Do we know how hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens can defend their rights?

It is essential –and I say this firmly because I love them- to clarify so many dark points. The award of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned as a dissident, demonstrates to what point the authorities act arbitrarily, preventing the news of this brilliant award from being broadcast, so that it wouldn’t spread to the rest of the people, refusing to let his wife give him the news and, immediately thereafter, subjecting him to house arrest.

They must realize that there are limits to their clients’ economic interests and that they have been exalted for ulterior motives, but they must also be aware of how they are perceived by the world, by people who are to a large extent consumers of their products.

It is essential to reach a broad agreement, without violent impositions from anyone, so that within a reasonable period China can change. And those who have offered China so many advantages in exchange for huge profits must understand that they must now also make substantial changes.

It’s clear that the only language it understands is economics. "Made in China" can no longer stand for discretionary monetary, labor and social practices which today render that label so suspect.

With the secular roots of its culture China is capable of making spectacular changes. Now is the time to take a decisive step... from the party leadership down to the rank and file party members. Progressively showing their faces. Opening their society to other countries, obviously none of which are morally authorized to cast the first stone.

It’s not in a dragon’s nature to be submissive. But if it listens to its distinguished fellow countryman Liu Xiaobo –what a fine choice the Nobel Peace Prize Committee made this time!- and to all of those he represents, and if it likewise listens to the voices of all of us who acknowledge and value Chinese culture, it will cease to be arrogant. And we will like its smile. The way it smiles today doesn’t please us at all.