The Nobel War Prize

Tariq Ali

Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat.

For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:

(a) China’s tragedy is that it wasn’t colonised for at least 300 years by a Western power or Japan. This would apparently have civilised it for ever;
(b) The Korean and Vietnam wars fought by the US were wars against totalitarianism and enhanced Washington’s ‘moral credibility’;
(c) Bush was right to go to war in Iraq and Senator Kerry’s criticisms were ‘slander-mongering’;
(d) Afghanistan? No surprises here: Full support for Nato’s war.

He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?

The Norwegian jurist Fredrik Heffermehl argues that the committee is in breach of the will and testament left behind by the inventor of dynamite whose bequests fund the prizes: ‘The Nobel committee has not received prize money for free use, but was entrusted with money to give to the pivotal element in creating peace, breaking the vicious circle of arms races and military power games. From this point of view the 2010 Nobel is again an illegitimate prize awarded by an illegitimate committee.’


  • 11 December 2010 at 8:30pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    On Heffermehl, who is a peace activist, his objection is to anyone winning the prize who isn't actively campaigning for disarmament, not specifically to Lin Xiabao. He said, in the newspaper, here:

    Det er klart at menneskerettsarbeid er fredsarbeid, men det var nedrustningsarbeid Nobel ville støtte med sin pris for fredsforkjempere. Med all respekt for Liu Xiaobo er dette enda et eksempel på at det ikke lenger er Nobels fredspris som utdeles, men Stortingets fredspris

    Obviously, working for human rights is working for peace, but it was disarmament work that Nobel wanted to support with his prize for agitators for peace. With all due respect to Liu Xiaobo, this is just another example that it's no longer Nobel's peace prize which is given, but the Norwegian parliament's peace prize,

    • 12 December 2010 at 8:05am
      Fredrik S. Heffermehl says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Nobel intended his prize to promote a new international system, where distrust and fear, resulting in recurring military violence, must be replace by trust, co-operation and disarmament based on international law and institutions. Everyone should be concerned with this, which in the nuclear age has become a question of continued life on the planet. The dedicated work intending to achieve peace and disarmament can take many forms, and it does. But the Nobel Committee cannot - and should not - behave as if the will of Nobel does not exist and as if Nobel gave them the money for free use. The diluted and diffuse prize presently being awarded will not do anything to change the international system.

      The key argument in my new book "The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel Really Wanted" (Praeger 2010) is that Nobel defined what he, writing his will, saw as the key to peace - abolition of national military forces. I would welcome a wide interpretation, and surprising, innovative prizes -as long as the committee is loyal to Nobel and shows that it has the courage to do what Nobel asked them to do: Challenge the military as a dominant factor in shaping the conduct of international affairs. John Pilger, Richard Falk, Scilla Elworthy, Bruce Kent, E.P. Thompson, Cora Weiss, Steinar Bryn, Joanna Macy, Evelin Lindner, are just some examples among the 2-300 I mention in the book.

      It is a paradox, Harold Pinter might just as well have received the peace prize, while Al Gore could only be qualified for the Nobel Prize for "the best literature with of idealist content". Also the Swedish Academy has probably failed Nobel and the main intention of the testament, to change the world "to the best of humankind." It is because neither Al Gore nor Barack Obama have ever displayed a taste for abolition of military forces that they were clearly disqualified. The idea of "general and complete" global disarmament, however, is not dated, but was on the diplomatic agenda and became a binding commitment among nations in 1968, through Art VI of the (NPT) treaty on non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

    • 12 December 2010 at 12:35pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Fredrik S. Heffermehl
      I agree. Unlike the US oscars, the peace prize is venerated around the world because there's a feeling that anyone is eligible; it's not only for English speakers and not only for heads of state. A little bit more transparency in the process of choosing would be nice; this isn't the college of cardinals.

      Tariq Ali says that Thorbjørn Jagland & other Norwegian politicians want to teach China a lesson. I didn't know that, and in his award speech Jagland went out of his way to say the opposite. Is there any evidence? Most of all, Tariq, I think you ought to provide some citations for Liu's views a-d; I can't be alone here in not having known about them.

    • 12 December 2010 at 1:47pm
      outofdate says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      I think perhaps Liu may have been joking about the 300 years: even a man as meek and mild as Mr Tariq may occasionally have had recourse to hyperbole in his permanent struggle against everything.

      Anyway, when Bertha von Suttner got the prize for Die Waffen Nieder!, the German blood-and-soil writer Felix Dahn got terribly upset, and when they asked him if he'd at least read her book he said 'Read? The book of a woman? Never!'

  • 11 December 2010 at 8:55pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Forgot: Liu Xiaobo's statement he made at his trial, that was read by Liv Ullmann at the Nobel ceremony in Oslo, is an eloquent statement for peaceful strategies.

    • 11 December 2010 at 9:01pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      If you want to read it a bit faster, it's here.

  • 12 December 2010 at 11:43am
    tanyajeffrys says:
    Frank Heffermehl is merely pointing out what the founder of dynamite wanted in relation to the prize bearing his name. Here, it's clear that the Norwegian Parliament has ignored his testament and usurped the place of an independent-minded Committee, making a laughing stock of the prize on many occasions. In 1936 they reportedly considered two major figures but couldn't decide between Hitler and Gandhi and selected some nondescript person. In later years they honoured Kissinger (the Vietnamese Le Duc Tho, with great dignity, refused to receive a joint prize with a war criminal). When they awarded it to Menachim Begin and Anwar Saadat, Golda Meir commented: 'Those two jokers deserve an Oscar, not a a Nobel.' And so it goes.
    Liu Xiabo's statement does not override his neo-conservative opinions on the various wars (that he still supports) nor does it renege on his deeply held views that colonialism is a good thing for lesser countries. 300 years remains his minimum sentence for what China needed. Stated first in 1988 he repeated it in 2006. If the Norwegian politicians wanted to embarrass China they could have found someone better.And if political prisoners are what they're looking for perhaps they could look in to Mumia Abu-Jamal death cell in the States. He's been there for thirty years, charged with a crime he did not commit. Obama is unlikely to pardon him. But the cold warrior who presides over the Committee is unlikely to even consider him.

    • 12 December 2010 at 1:19pm
      outofdate says: @ tanyajeffrys
      Frederik Heffermehl.

    • 12 December 2010 at 2:12pm
      Fredrik S. Heffermehl says: @ outofdate
      says his name is not Frank, not FredErik, just Fredrik.

    • 13 December 2010 at 3:36am
      outofdate says: @ Fredrik S. Heffermehl
      Mister Heffermehl to us then.

  • 12 December 2010 at 2:24pm
    Justus Civicas says:
    I usually tend to agree with Tariq Ali, but in this note he arrived at conclusions too fast. I agree that the statements of Liu Xiaobao on the good consequences of colonialism and imperialism are mistaken. However Liu has not campaigned for colonizing China, or for war in Vietnam, Iraq or Afaganistan –neither he has fought a war like Kissinger or Obama did. It is unlikely that all the opinions of any prize winner are in complete concordance with Nobel's will or the Nobel Committee, particularly if a detailed research is done into all what they have said in his life. Tariq Ali is particularly wrong when he asks: ‘He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?’ It is evident that the prize was not given for these opinions, but for his struggle for human rights. I think his mistaken views do not destroy his merits as a peaceful activist for democracy and human rights in China.
    The other issue is that of the Nobel Prize itself. There have been a number of cases in which the Nobel Prize has been given to the wrong people. The Committee should adopt a very stringent approach to candidates in order to ensure cases like that of Kissinger do not happen again. But the Prize in general has kept its dignity as most of the times it has been given to persons who truly deserve it.

  • 12 December 2010 at 3:36pm
    IlllllllllllllI says:
    Absolutely shameful. To say that "He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?" is a dishonest fabrication. Xiaobo was not given the award for any of the opinions that Ali lists (without quotations or context, as with every good libel). He was given the award for his work as a pro-democracy activist, a prison activist and an activist for writers under an authoritarian regime.

    And then there's the wonderful sentence: "He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson", where the second clause doesn't pretend to follow from the first, just lets that first bit make Ali's implicitly authoritarian point: "He should never have been arrested, but..."

    Mr. Ali would like this piece to be about the illegitimacy of the Nobel committee, because that's a banal enough statement to be correct. Instead, the glaring dishonesty shows again that Mr. Ali sheds solidarity with prisoners under authoritarian regimes when their politics differ from his own.

  • 12 December 2010 at 3:51pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Alfred Nobel's intention is laid out in his will (my bolding):

    The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prizes for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical work by the Caroline Institute in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm, and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not.

  • 12 December 2010 at 5:26pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    Sorry Fredrik about getting your name wrong. But the discussion gets hotter by the minute. The notion that human rights is an unproblematic concept these days when it is used to justify war and occupation and has become a central pillar of NATO strategy is something that needs discussion at length somewhere. But to argue that as long as you're 'fighting' for 'human rights' your views don't matter is absurd. How can you defend 'human rights' if you favour war to do so. Are the Iraqi people better off after a million dead, five million orphans, three million refugees and continuous civil war? And the Afghans? Only recently a survey said that the condition of women has worsened in Afghanistan since the occupation. It was not a survey carried out by pro-Taliban organisations! For those who want citations, here is something from one of the websites cited by Thomas Jones above:
    'Liu Xiaobo’s statement that he does not repudiate his comments re colonialism is found at This same cite was forwarded to a South China Morning Post fact-checker prior to the publication of the Sautman/Yan article on Liu Xiaobo. As with op-ed pieces everywhere, not everything authors want to include is allowed to be included. With Liu Xiaobo, for example, one would have liked to say something about his vituperative support for the Iraq War and George W. Bush or perhaps something about how all the five Norwegian politicians who comprise the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are representatives of political parties that have backed the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars.'

  • 12 December 2010 at 5:31pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    all the five Norwegian politicians who comprise the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are representatives of political parties that have backed the Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars.

    Don't believe everything you read.

    • 13 December 2010 at 7:04am
      Ågot Jorunn Valle, who's on the committee, is a member of the Socialist Left party. The Socialist Left party didn't support the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, despite having members who are part of the Labour coalition government. Thorbjørn Jagland and Sissel Marie Rønbeck are from the Labour party, which is split over support of the wars. So Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong are wrong.

    • 13 December 2010 at 8:02am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Here's a brief explanation in English of the SV's position & the history of it. Note that Valle is no longer a member of the Storting, though.

      By chance, except for Jagland, the committee's current members are all women.

    • 13 December 2010 at 4:22pm
      So Tony Blair and George Bush aren’t politicians either?

      Bush & Blair are the men who started the wars, they're the former heads of government. If you're saying Ågot Jorunn Valle is more like Bush and Blair than like, say, Tony Benn and Clement Freud, (aren't there any female ex-MPs?) then you're barking up the wrong tree.

      What they do in government is more important than what they say out of it.

      But Ågot Jorunn Valle wasn't in the government! Again, you might as well blame Tony Benn for the Labour Party going to war against Iraq when, like Tariq Ali, he was a member of the Stop The War Coalition. Maybe Tariq Ali wanted to go to war; he was in the same group as members of Blair's party! I can't understand why you guys are trying tar the committee with the Bush & Blair brush.

    • 13 December 2010 at 8:28pm
      You can say it's undeniably true if you want to, but it isn't. The SV was against the Iraq war ("In our opinion the war was contrary to international law" said Kristin Halvorsen, SV party leader then & now) The SV is also opposed to Norway being in Afghanistan, and we know from Wikileaks that to the US embassy in Oslo the SV is "a socialist anti-NATO party".

      I'd like to have found something Ågot Valle said about the wars, but I can't. That doesn't mean she's a friend of the US. In 2006, when the Storting's Foreign Relations Committee voted to allow storage of U.S. munitions in Norway, Valle stipulated that such equipment should not be used in the Iraq war. That may be what caused the SV to put her on the Nobel committee, although she's also head of an int'l women's rights group called Fokus and has apparently worked to "say no" to nuclear weapons.

      Sautman & Yan got it wrong -- undeniably, I'd say -- but that has obscured the main point, which is that as Heffermehl proposes, the Storting should quit appointing former politicians to the Nobel committee and instead choose people who are better qualified and "undeniably" unbiased. The current setup was never Nobel's intention, and pre-WW2, when the Norwegian prime minister was on the committee, they changed the system. There's no reason not to revise the membership again.

      As I said elsewhere, I think it's great that Liu won the peace prize. He disapproves of everyone equally, and what's more he has no enemies.

    • 13 December 2010 at 9:05pm
      The problem is that when I say "SV" and "coalition" you see Nick Clegg; whereas I see a strong, blonde, younger version of Tariq Ali.

  • 12 December 2010 at 5:53pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    I don't, but tell me which of them has not supported either of these wars?
    Isn't the point that politicians per se should not be running these Committees. None of the other Nobel Prizes are, thank heaven, run by politicians, so why should this one serve as a NATO instrument. A Committee of people involved in exposing the arms race, arms sales, wars, civil wars, could surely be found even if they wanted to restrict it to Norway.

    • 12 December 2010 at 6:32pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ tanyajeffrys
      tell me which of them has not supported either of these wars?

      Well, why not do your own research? Here are the members of the Nobel peace prize committee, below. You can translate it on google translate if you don't speak Norwegian. (Hint. The Sosialistisk Venstreparti, the Socialist Party Of The Left: what do you think their position might be?)

      Den Norske Nobelkomite 2010

      * Thorbjørn Jagland (60 år), leder, generalsekretær for Europarådet. Tidligere statsminister, utenriksminister og Stortingets president. Det norske Arbeiderparti.
      * Karin Cecilie (Kaci) Kullmann Five (59 år), nestleder, næringsdrivende. Tidligere statsråd og stortingsrepresentant. Høyre.
      * Sissel Marie Rønbeck (60 år). Tidligere statsråd og stortingsrepresentant. Det norske Arbeiderparti.
      * Inger-Marie Ytterhorn (69 år), spesialrådgiver Fremskrittspartiets stortingsgruppe. Tidligere stortingsrepresentant. Fremskrittspartiet.
      * Ågot Jorunn Valle (65 år). Tidligere stortingsrepresentant. Sosialistisk Venstreparti.

      Varamedlemmer 2009–2011:

      * 1. Knut Vollebæk (64 år), høykommissær for nasjonale minoriteter i OSSE. Tidligere utenriksminister. Kristelig Folkeparti.
      * 2. Christopher Stensaker (65 år), politiker. Tidligere stortingsrepresentant. Fremskrittspartiet.
      * 3. Sverre Lodgaard (65 år), seniorforsker NUPI. Det norske Arbeiderparti.

      Isn’t the point that politicians per se should not be running these Committees.

      They AREN'T politicians. They are all FORMER members of the Storting, the Norwegian parliament. The Storting decided that the committee should be selected to reflect the current proportions of parties within the Storting. That the winner should be decided by a committee chosen by the Storting was stipulated in Nobel's will.

      why should this one serve as a NATO instrument.

      If you think the Nobel peace prize is a NATO instrument, you should probably supply evidence.

      A Committee of people involved in exposing the arms race, arms sales, wars, civil wars, could surely be found even if they wanted to restrict it to Norway.

      I must say you are fucking rude about countries you clearly no nothing about.

  • 12 December 2010 at 6:39pm
    Ruthie says:
    Here in Tel Aviv some of the peace activists like myself often wonder why
    no Israeli dissident have ever been honoured. Uri Avineri, Amira Hass, Gideon Levi are obvious names. And the person whose courage has become legendary: Mordechai Vanunu, who revrealed that Isrtael was a nuclear state and is still under house arrest, not allowed to leave the country. Each year from 1988 to 2004, Joseph Rotblat wrote to the Nobel Prize Committee suggesting his name. Finally Vanunu wrote himself and withdrew his name. He stated:" I am asking the committee to remove my name from the list for this year’s list of nominations. I cannot be part of a list of laureates that includes Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. He is the man who was behind all the Israeli atomic policy. Peres established and developed the atomic weapon program in Dimona in Israel..Peres was the man who ordered the kidnapping of me in Italy Rome, Sept. 30, 1986, and for the secret trial and sentencing of me as a spy and traitor for 18 years in isolation in prison in Israel. Until now he continues to oppose my freedom and release, in spite of my serving full sentence 18 years. From all these reasons I don’t want be nominated and will not accept this nomination. I say No to any nomination as long as I am not free, that is, as long as I am still forced to be in Israel. WHAT I WANT IS FREEDOM AND ONLY FREEDOM"
    It seems that our fighters for peace are invisible to the Norwegian politicians. I always wondered why. This blog debate has been enlightening. I now know why.

  • 12 December 2010 at 7:27pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    You're losing your temper. As to why it might be considered a NATO instrument you've got to look at its entire role during the Cold War, who it selected and why and how it has continued in similar fashion. A former editor of the Japan Times has a long article on its NATO instrumentalism. If you think I'm rude about Norway you should listen to my Norwegian friends.The often talk about the collaborationist mentality of the Norwegian elite. They have choice epithets for Jagland in particular. And is it not the case that some Norwegian papers are just as critical of this Committee as some of us non-Norwegians sometimes can be.

    • 12 December 2010 at 8:31pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ tanyajeffrys
      I have no clue what you're talking about with "the Norwegian elite". Norway's the most equal country I've ever seen, they're so obsessed with equality there's a Scandinavian description, janteloven for a condition where equality is over-emphasised at the expense of individuality. You can ask your Norwegian friends about janteloven.

      As for Thorbjørn Jagland, I really don't care what your friends think of him; what kind of a basis is that to pass judgment on anything? The same goes for NATO and looking at it's entire role during the cold war and its collaborationist mentality and what the former editor of the Japan Times maybe thinks. This is just chatter. Give us some facts, not what someone might have thought down the pub one night.

    • 12 December 2010 at 8:47pm
      cigar says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      The one who should be taking the trouble to dig up the facts is you, A.J.P. So far the only thing you have done to support your view that the members of the committee are *not* supporters of the US' latest' military adventures is a list of their names and the parties they belong to, and then imply that the fact that these are firmly on the left or left of centre is - alone - proof enough of this.

      Oh, c'mon, pleeeease! Were you born yesterday? What party did Blair belong to? Obama? Zapatero of Spain? They are from the left, liberal, or on the case of Zapatero, Socialist (he may have been against the Iraq war, but he supports the occupation of Afghanistan). In much of the West traditional left parties have supporter the US' inmoral military interventions *and* free market policies that have done nothing but increase inequalities of power and wealth. Try question this assertion with a straight face, focusing on parties who have been in government, instead of pulling off vacuous factoids out of the google hat.

    • 12 December 2010 at 10:03pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ cigar
      More meaningless chatter. I don't respond to this, sorry.

  • 13 December 2010 at 12:26am
    Henry Holland says:
    Mr Ali: I do wish to follow your revelational summary of Liu Xiabo's views on war through to a logical personal judgement - your a) to d) - yet in the midst of the heated posturing your entry has created, source citations for any of your four points remain elusive. I would be genuinely grateful if you could supply them as soon as possible. Thomas Jone's links were helpful in this direction, but still insufficient to my current real situation of discussing the validity of your argument with my adult education class here in Hamburg. One article that Jone's links to mirrors one of your points: "Liu stated in a 1988 interview with a Hong Kong magazine that China should undergo 300 years of colonialism to make it like Hong Kong. He reiterated this view in an interview with the same magazine in 2006." But: - author's name, article name, exact date, issue number. That's the dull stuff us mortals down on the ground need, to evaluate your arguments.
    So I'm calling for some team work here. Instead of the bravado of who's the greatest Norway buff, or the most fearless anti-Nato-er, what about starting with the facts of which of the 4 views attributed to Xiabo he is meant to have written or said when, and in which context, and where that's published. Regarding statements originally written or said in Xiabo's native language, could a sinologist who is reading - once Ali has provided citations - comment briefly on the political neutrality of how Ali has paraphrased the original Chinese/Mandarin? If Xiabo's alleged description of Kerry's Bush critique - "slander-mongering" as Ali puts it in a direct quote - was originally stated in Mandarin, could the Mandarin characters for "slander-mongering" go up on this blog?
    No, I don't see this argument at all as a game; but it is an argument in which the details will are decisive. Finally, I don't get what Ali's doing by applying the epiphet "neo-con" to Xiabo. It is possible that Xiabo shares some important convictions with the US neo-cons, but what's the game with the cultural imperialism of taking a classification that only gets its meaning because the US political landscape is how it is, and forcing it down on an utterly different Chinese political landscape, the one that matters to Xiabo? When does a "con" become a "neo-con" anyway? When he swaps his tweed jacket for a combat jacket? If the word "neo-con" actually means anything internationally - if it's not just slander-mongering - could Ali give us a quick "neo-cons for beginners"? Like say, which of the UK conservative party MPs are "cons" and which are "neo-cons"? Equipped with such useful info, we'll soon be ready to judge: is Ali telling the truth?

    • 13 December 2010 at 9:13am
      outofdate says: @ Henry Holland
      Some quotes from a piece on the Iraq war are given in Chinese down the thread Thomas linked here (scroll to Charles Liu).

      Sautman and Yan say Liu Xiabao 'has long been financed by the US government's National Endowment for Democracy.'

      'Barry Sautman is a political scientist and lawyer at Hong Kong University of Science & Technology' who makes a living defending the Chinese regime on grounds I'm too ignorant to judge. 'Yan Hairong is an anthropologist at Hong Kong Polytechnic University,' ditto.

      Welcome to Asian politics: please pick your own stooge.

    • 13 December 2010 at 9:57am
      Justus Civicas says: @ outofdate
      Following the link provided by outofdate I found this blog entry in hiddenharmonies, which shed light into Liu's comments into colonialism (vidicating him) and shown the character of his accusers in Hong Kong:

      October 14th, 2010 at 06:10 | #4 Reply | Quote
      Barry, Liu explicitly said in the same interview:
      “Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
      A. Three hundred years of colonialism. Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism. China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism. I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

      Q. This is 100% “treason.”
      A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands. You cannot take away what they don’t have.”…

      Q. You are saying that you want China to take Hong Kong’s path?
      A. But history will not give this opportunity to the Chinese people. The era of colonialism has gone by. Nobody is willing to bear the burden known as China.”

      That is, Liu explicitly said that he did not think it was possible for China to take Hong Kong’s path. How, therefore, can this be said to be his goal? As for praising colonial rule in Hong Kong, the recent letter signed by Li Rui (amongst others) does pretty much the same thing.
      I also note that, unlike other people on this website, you do at least note that his imprisonment is totally unnecessary. Will you also agree that it was unjust?

  • 13 December 2010 at 1:14am
    rek2 says:
    Some information on Liu Xiaobo can be sourced from the following; much of his writing is in Chinese and is not translated into English, although some has been made available, and surely more will come now that he's got such noteriety. bibliographies at Literature > Author Studies > Liu Xiaobo

    There are other sources as well.

    But none of this changes the fact that Tariq Ali has correctly identified some of the sources of extreme discomfort that this prize has caused among those in China, Chinese abroad, and others involved in China-related work. Liu is a very divisive figure, not b/c of government propaganda but in spite of it. There are of course the ultra-nationalists, who conceived the "Confucius Peace Prize" in a semi-comical attempt to upstage the Nobel ceremony; one can almost write them off, except they do represent a certain faction in Chinese elite circles (not necessarily all government-related). But, there are also very reputable leftists and semi-leftists and liberals who know Liu Xiaobo and his work and who are made extremely uncomfortable by this prize. These are not people susceptible to Party propaganda, but are people who have struggled with Liu's work over the past two decades and who have disputed his 'scholarly' and other output. None of these believe Liu should be in prison; but few believe he should be the recepient of the Nobel prize.
    In other words, this is not a simple "Chinese Communist Party vs. the world" issue, at least not in China. This is a serious issue of a scholar who has written and done some very unpopular things in the academic sphere, which have raised legitimate questions about his fitness as a Peace Prize recepient. I repeat, nobody argues that he should be in prison; and everyone is embarassed by the ham-handedness and hysteria of the Party's response. That does not mean that there are not legitimate issues one can debate. Tariq Ali has offered several.

  • 13 December 2010 at 7:54am
    dewang says:
    Liu Xiaobo's writings are widely available on the Internet in China and he is also discussed in many Chinese forums. Simply go to and search for "刘晓波" in Chinese.

    A reader of ours left a link to one of his writings with some bits translated:

    Liu was convicted for "attempt to subvert state power" - though the verdict didn't mention the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) specifically, he received closed to $1million over a period of some years - according to NED's own documents.

  • 13 December 2010 at 10:30am
    Ruthie says:
    I don't think anyone seriously critical of the Nobel Prize Committee decision in relation to Liu Xiabo (not on this blog or elsewhere) has suggested he should be imprisoned. It's his pro-war views that have brought to light by Tariq Ali and have surprised some of us. In addition it's the double standards on display that are so revealing. China can be denounced, but Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, the United States, etc., can lock up who they want under various pretexts and that's fine. And, of course, Britain. There are a few brave lawyers in the latter country who have fought against wrongful imprisonment of Irish and Muslim people. Respected by ordinary people, ignored by the establishments.

  • 13 December 2010 at 1:55pm
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Boy, read Tariq's links, if Liu is a "neo-con", then Tariq Ali is US ambassador to the Holy See. He says "My greatest sorrow is because the limitations of language, but also have to speak Chinese, I was in with a very stupid, very vulgar things dialogue which will only make their own lower and lower levels." (That's exactly what happened with this post, of course.)

    Liu strikes me as a typical writer for the LRB: he's a sarcastic intellectual who disapproves of everybody equally. I think it's great that he won. Nordic academics "neither understand their own culture, (and) do not understand China", of Oslo University: "I still say that their is a scholar in the ninety-eight% waste, poor quality academics". I'm sure some of the people he met in Oslo (the "Norwegian elite") recommended him -- there are Norwegian advisers to the committee who write reports on the candidates -- he doesn't come off as being beholden to anyone. He probably didn't expect nitwitted Westerners to take his 300 years of colonialism comment at face value, but he underestimates Western paranoia.

    Of course he has more criticisms of China than of elsewhere; that's because HE'S CHINESE, not because he's a sockpuppet of Dick Cheney.

    • 13 December 2010 at 3:16pm
      cigar says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Either anger has got the better of you and you can no longer make a reasoned argument, or there's a "meaningless chatter" virus, and now you are also infected with it.

    • 13 December 2010 at 3:30pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ cigar
      Oh, go back to sleep.

    • 13 December 2010 at 3:57pm
      tanyajeffrys says: @ A.J.P. Crown
      Poor AJP.Having been proved wrong on virtually everything, he's now in denial. Liu's just a 'sarcastic' 'typical' LRB contributor. Give us a break. And take one yourself. A long walk, fresh air would do you good.

    • 13 December 2010 at 4:26pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ tanyajeffrys
      What are you two? Wallace & Gromitt?

  • 13 December 2010 at 8:15pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    No. Just a pair of trolls.

    • 13 December 2010 at 8:31pm
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ tanyajeffrys
      I might have known.

  • 13 December 2010 at 9:45pm
    tanyajeffrys says:
    Of course. You're a know-all.

  • 15 December 2010 at 8:37am
    gramsci says:
    For the attention of all who have experienced the insulting A.J.P. Crown, the self-appointed know it all about Norway and Norwegian political and social life, I really hate to destroy his prejudices with some facts: 1) in the capital of the most egalitarian society in the world according to Crown, men on the east side of the city die on the average 10 years before men living on the west and more affluent side of the city; 2) the king drives a BMW like everybody else accoarding to Crown is a out and out lie which tells much more about AJP's circle of Norwegian friends than the reality of a society where most Norwegians if they have automobilies are most certainly not in the BMW class 3) Tanyajeffreys, your Norwegian friends are spot on about the toadying elite in Norway and its spit licking (nice Norwegian phrase, that) relationship to the USA. Since 1945, this elite has gone out of its way to show loyalty to its masters in Washington. Recently as Wikileaks showed to the discomfort of the elite, it was involved in a charade about evaluating bids for the next generations of fighterplanes. Sweden and the US were the two competitors but the leakded documents show that Espen Barth Eide (some of the elite go in for 3 names) had been telling the US embassy months in advance that the deal was done for the more expensive US plane. Another point, in contrast to Sweden who let American deserters and draft evaders live in the country during the entire Viet Nam war, Norway rejected every single application by deserters and draft evaders to live within its boundaries. Finally, after awarding the prize to Kissinger and then awarding it last year to the American president responsible for dropping the greatest tonnage of bombs on the world's poorest country, this year's award to an apologist for US foreign policy is no surprise. Thorbjørn Jagland has never been known for his intelligence, but there has never been any doubt about his love of sharing the spotlight with whoever he has managed to push through as the peace prize winner. It has been claimed that he turned the doubters on the committee about Obama last year by arguing that if they did not join him in the vote, it would be seen by Washington as anti-Ameicanism. Heaven forbid. My bet for next year is Dick Cheney!!! And finally, I think AJP Crown owes an apology to all those who he insulted while parading his prejudics as his knowledge about a society he clearly knows very fucking little about.

  • 15 December 2010 at 7:17pm
    Michael says:
    Here is what I received late last night from another researcher:


    Why China sees Liu as a paid lacky of the US

    Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize

    Research by: Charles Liu (USA), c/o

    Liu Xiaobo has as president 2003-2007 and thereafter Honorary President of
    the "Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Inc." (Link:, and as founder of "Democratic
    China, Inc.", received the following amounts of money from NED (Noffices in
    Washington DC:

    To "Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Inc."

    2004: $ 85,000
    2005: $ 99 500
    2006: $ 135,000
    2007: $ 135,000
    2008: $ 152,350
    2009: $ 152,950

    Sum: $ 759 800

    To "Democra tic China, Inc.":

    2004: $ 135,000
    2005: $ 136,000
    2006: $ 136,000
    2007: $ 145,000
    2008: $ 150,000
    2009: $ 195,000
    2009: $ 18,000 (Supplement)

    Sum: US$ 915 000

    Total support from NED during these years is $ 1 674 800 (759 800 +
    915 000) which is approximately 11 million yuan - a huge sum of money in
    China - where a normal salary is about 20% of the level in the West.


    To find the amount of money, go to the link, scroll down to "Independent
    Chinese PEN Centre, Inc." and also to "Democratic China, Inc." Do not get
    led astray by all the nice words:
    iption-of-2008-grants/china (2009)

    It is unclear how the money during the years has been delivered by the

    It is also not clear how the money have been spent. The verdict of Liu
    Xiaobo mentions money from abroad received to the account of Liu Xia, his
    wife. See the English (unofficial) translation of the
    (Scroll down to Beijing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People's Court
    -- Criminal Verdict).

    Rumors speculate in how the couple, without the NED-money, could have
    afforded a flat in a compound at 9 South Yuyuantan Street in Beijing.


    Liu Xiaobo has by receiving the NED-money in many peoples eyes lost his
    innocence and, willingly or unwillingly, become a foreign agent.
    Authorities in the US has, since he for many years has been working to
    discredit and harm China, been satisfied with his work, and NED has
    therefore every year since 2003 renewed the payment, and even in some
    years increased it.

    What is NED?

    NED (National Endowment for Democracy) is funded by the American government,
    and is subject to congressional oversight - which is a prettier word for
    "government control". The purpose is to fund individuals, political parties
    and non-governmental organisations
    (NGOs) which are favourable to US interests and willing to spread their

    In 1991, Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the legislation establishing NED,
    candidly said: "A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by
    the CIA." In effect, the CIA launders money through NED. (Washington Post,
    Sept.22, 1991)

    New York Times wrote on December 4, 1985: "The National Endowment for
    Democracy is a quasi-governmental foundation created by the Reagan
    Administration in 1983 to channel millions of Federal dollars into
    anti-Communist 'private diplomacy.'"

    Testifying before the Sub-committee on International Operations and Human
    Rights of the Committee on International Relations of the House of
    Representatives on March 13,1997, Mr.Carl Gershman, President of the NED,
    said: " I just want to say that the Endowment's work is based upon a very,
    very simple proposition. And that is, where there are people who share our
    values, where there are people who might be called the natural friends of
    America, then it is our obligation to help those people in some way."

    Bill Berkowitz of "Working for Change" writes: "The NED functions as a
    full-service infrastructure building clearinghouse. It provides money,
    technical support, supplies, training programs, media know-how, public
    relations assistance and state-of-the-art equipment to select political
    groups, civic organizations, labor unions, dissident movements, student
    groups, book publishers, newspapers, and other media. Its aim is to
    destabilize progressive movements, particularly those with a socialist or
    democratic socialist bent."
    Also see:

    Republican congressman from the Texas Gulf Coast, Dr. Ron Paul, who is more
    Libertarian than Republican, writes: "The misnamed National Endowment for
    Democracy is nothing more than a costly program that takes US taxpayer funds
    to promote favored politicians and political parties abroad. What the NED
    does in foreign countries ... would be rightly illegal in the United

    NED gives i 2009 high priority to destabilize China: Of the 28 NGOs in Asia
    funded by the NED i 2009, 14 focus on China (50%), and in addition 4 focus
    on Tibetan exiles, and 4 on Uyghur (Xinjiang) exiles.

    The following Uygur organizations got in 2009 money from NED:
    International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation $25,000
    (Supplement); International Uyghur PEN Club (IUPC) $69,502; Uyghur American
    Association $249,000; World Uyghur Congress $186,000. all together $ 529

    Shocking information on the case of Rebiya Kadeer with similarities to Liu

    Once she arrived in the US however, she has been committed to "Xinjiang
    independence" activities. In the same year, she founded the US-based
    International Uyghur Human Rights and Democracy Foundation (IUHRDF). In
    2006, she became president of the Uyghur American Association (UAA) and was
    elected as president of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) at its Second
    General Assembly in the same year. As soon as Rebiya arrived in the US, the
    "renowned" National Endowment for Democracy (NED) came to visit her,
    expressing a willingness to offer financial support. It has been disclosed
    that the NED annually grants 200,000 USD to the UAA (Uyghur American
    Association). In 2007, East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) organizations,
    including the WUC (World Uyghur Congress) and IUHRDF (Uyghur Human Rights
    and Democracy Foundation) led by Rebiya, received a total of 520,000 USD of
    financial support from the NED.

    In addition, some anti-China US congressmen have become guests of honor for
    Rebiya, and frequently invited her to deliver speeches at the so-called
    "Congressional Human Rights Caucus Meeting." Even former president George W.
    Bush met with Rebiya twice in 2007 and
    2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics, calling her a freedom warrior.
    Members of the CIA often disguised as reporters and non-government
    organization (NGO) volunteers expressed their concerns to her, keeping close
    touch with her on the issue of ETIM prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

    Rebiya once said they would plan some penetration and sabotage activities at
    the third General Assembly targeting the grand celebration for the 60th
    anniversary of the People's Republic of China; and formulate a plan of
    "three phases for Xinjiang independence in 50 years." The WUC website
    impressively showed that the WUC Third General Assembly was unexpectedly
    held in the South Congressional Meeting Room with the participation of
    nearly 10 US congressmen. Most of these congressmen are veteran anti-China

    I like others have witnessed NED money being spread all around the world to further some very questionable projects which always coincide with US foreign policy aims. I wonder how AJP Crown would like NED money pouring into England or Norway to inluence elections of those persons NED felt needed to be in parliament. Anyone out there ever hear: Different strokes for different strokes.

    • 16 December 2010 at 7:57am
      A.J.P. Crown says: @ Michael
      If you're looking for a Nobel peace prize winner who's a paid lacky of the US government, look no further than President Obama.

  • 16 December 2010 at 9:27am
    Justus Civicas says:
    The US support of Liu Xiabo does not credit the totalitarian and genocidal Chinese regime. Neither it discredits the peaceful and justified work for human rights and democracy made by Liu.

    Your lack of criticism of the Chinese regime, or your support of it, discredit your comments.

    A tour for the history of Communist China would be advisable: 70 million killed since 1949 (Chang & Hallyday, Mao. The Unknown Story, p.3)

    • 16 December 2010 at 5:47pm
      cigar says: @ Justus Civicas
      So, any comment that doesn't denounce the Chinese communist regime can be written off right away, ignoring the validity of the arguments and facts it puts forward? That sounds like killing the messenger.

      And perhaps you would care to do a tour of the recent history of the US: maintaining a prison complex that holds more people than that of China or Russia, military interventions that have led to the deaths of tens, if not hundreds of thousands, and the displacement of millions. Are we supposed to believe that this country and its fellow travelers abroad will truly replace the regimes they despise with glorious examples of freedom, democracy and yes, freedom of expression? Perhaps you would like to take a look at the example of Georgia...

    • 17 December 2010 at 9:01pm
      Justus Civicas says: @ cigar
      It is not that China should be criticised at all times. But when we are discussing a guy that has spent 20 years -most of them in jail just for speaking- peacefully opposing a regime like the Chinese, and an avalanche of 'arguments and facts' is thrown upon him, while no consideration is made about the sea of crimes committed by that regime, it is evident that judgement is not properly balanced.

      I have already made the tour about the crimes of the US -my country has been a victim of US imperialism since I was a child, and since the early 1980's I have been in protests against the US. I am well aware of the interventions of the US in Latin America, since 1846 in Mexico, to the more recent in Panama, Granada, Venezuela, Haiti and Honduras -around sixty in total. You do not mention crimes against humanity like the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nor the carpet bombing -with the help of the British- of German cities and villages (circa 600.000 civilians, refugees, prisoners, foreigners killed).

      So it is not that I am not aware of US criminal record, nor that by criticising China, or if you want, the USSR, North Korea, Cambodia, etc., I am promoting US imperialism. You are using the same argument used against Amnesty by states of all colours: Amnesty would be a puppet of Capitalist governments, of comunist governments, and so on. And with Amnesty we get to the criteria that guides my defence of Liu Xiabo and my critique of China: it is not a political question between states or empires. It is the defence of the victims and peaceful defenders of human rights whatever the culprit is.

    • 19 December 2010 at 12:59pm
      tanyajeffrys says: @ Justus Civicas
      Justus: Nobody but nobody has argued that the Chinese are justified in imprisoning Liu or others for their beliefs. And Amnesty and others should campaign continuously on his behalf. The debate is whether using the Peace Prize as an instrument help[s anybody. Many of us think its a travesty. And the double standards are blatant: would this Prize Committee dominated by Norwegian establishment politicians even consider Mumia Abu-Jamal, incarcerated on Death Row in Pennsylvania for 30 years as a candidate? If not him, then why Liu, who as Michael's blog above has suggested is on the US payroll. As for Chang and Halliday's work I suggest you read how it has been demolished by US, British and Chinese scholars none of whom are pro-Mao. Suggest you read 'Was Mao Really a Monster?'edited by Gregor Benton and Lin Chun. One ofd the essays reprinted in it is the review of the book published by the LRB. Must learn to distinguish between opinion formers (such as the Guardian airhead who virtually reprinted the publisher's publicity releases) and genuine scholars.

  • 19 December 2010 at 5:11pm
    Ruthie says:
    Here's a constructive suggestion. Why doesn't Fredrik Heffermehl set up a Real Nobel Peace Prize Committee consisting of people like himself from other parts of the world to decide on a suitable winner at the same time as the politicians. A modest amount of money could be raised, but the honour would be seen as real rather than instrumental.

  • 20 December 2010 at 6:19pm
    Fredrik S. Heffermehl says:
    Most people without legal training overlook how different the interpretation of a will is different from a contract – you have just one party to consider, and the testator and his/her intention is decisive. My book “The Nobel Peace Prize. What Nobel Really Wanted” (Praeger 2010) contains the only known legal analysis of the testament – it has dug up various clues to what the expressions must have meant to NOBEL. A very interesting expression, “the champions of peace”, used to describe the recipients had been overlooked for 108 years – it is clearly a reference to the peace movement where Alfred Nobel´s friend Bertha von Suttner was a leading protagonist. He also joined her movement as a member and financial supporter. See the sample text at

  • 23 December 2010 at 5:28pm
    keith smith says:
    I'm late to this interesting discussion. Like A.J.P Crown I know Norway quite well and speak Norwegian, having lived there for more than a decade. I was a good friend of a former Peace Prize Committee chairman, and was once part of a successful effort to get the committee to take Nobel's will seriously by giving the prize to someone who had "reduced standing armies" (that was Gorbachev). My comments are: I have met three of the current committee, and the idea that they are not politicians because they are no longer members of the Storting is fanciful. Thorbjorn Jagland in particular is a mainstream politician to his fingertips. He is also a member of the ruling elite. Crown writes that 'I have no clue what you’re talking about with “the Norwegian elite”', but I do. Norway is run by a very small, long-lasting, cohesive and generally intelligent elite. It's open to ideas, and there is discussion and debate, but everything is quite closely held. The Janteloven (a sort of mock equality law) to which Crown refers is strictly for public consumption. The elite interests itself in the Peace Prize, and there is quite a bit of discussion about it, the content of which the Committee is well aware.

  • 14 January 2011 at 10:01am
    Fredrik S. Heffermehl says:
    To Keith Smith, Your comment on the Gorbachev prize 1990 is very interesting, that is the last time the committee expressed any interest in Nobel and what he had in mind. The committee chair, Giske Anderson, in her speech gave a perfectly correct rendering of the committee´s task and the purpose of Nobel and his prize for "the champions of peace" (not "peace" in general - which the committee has mistakenly interpreted). The year the present committee secretary Geir Lundestad started in his post was to be the last year the committee paid any respect to Nobel. As explained in my book there were other candidates for the post, who would have supported Nobel and his intentions - but the politicians in the committee preferred the pro-NATO historian, expert in modern US history, Lundestad.
    Keith Smith finishes with this sentence: "The elite interests itself in the Peace Prize, and there is quite a bit of discussion about it, the content of which the Committee is well aware." My comment: But the Committee pays no attention, behaving as if it is above the law and above discussion.

  • 17 January 2011 at 3:31pm
    Fredrik S. Heffermehl says:
    The Nobel committee has claimed that "Among the many writers on the Nobel peace prize Heffermehl is the alone with his interpretation". There are (as documented in my book) many writers who share my view of what kind of recipients Nobel had in mind. But the present committee also contradicts the committee´s own earlier statements. In the two first decades after 1901 the committee often declared that the Nobel prize was for active peace work and the peace and disarmament movement. This view was reflected as late as 20 years ago, in Gidske Anderson´s speech for Mikhail Gorbachev on Dec. 10, 1990:
    "The guidelines governing our work are nevertheless clearly set out: these are to be found in Alfred Nobel's testament, written nearly a hundred years ago.// The award this year is very much in line with Alfred Nobel's own wishes and desires. Nobel wanted the prize to be awarded to someone who had worked to promote "fraternity between nations". That was the expression generally used in his day to denote the substitution of international cooperation for conflict. Nobel also wished his prize to be given to someone who had actively promoted a reduction in "standing armies" and worked for the "holding of peace congresses", what we today would call disarmament and negotiation. // Seldom has our Committee felt more in tune with Alfred Nobel's wishes than this year."

    The optimistic sense of a world onto a new start and a window of opportunity for a profound change of international relations at the end of the Cold War was reflected in some introductory remarks in Gidske Anderson´s speech:
    "We are experiencing dramatic changes in a world that is still rent with conflict. Nevertheless, we also have clear evidence that a peace process has started. East and West, the two mighty power blocs, have managed to abandon their life-threatening confrontation and have, instead, embarked on the long and patient road to cooperation on the basis of negotiation. The task now is to create a peaceful framework for the far-reaching transformation which will inevitably continue to take place in our part of the world. // We have already seen the fruits of this new climate between East and West."
    But - as I explain in the book - after an uncertain period, temporarily, out of balance, the military (acting, again, in a very unpatriotic way, and against the interest of the nation) soon got back on its feet and recreated the enemy and fear that they depend on to be able to continue to bite a big chunk of taxpayers money.

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