Liu Xiaobo. Heard that name before? I hope so, because he just won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize! The Communist Party wasn’t thrilled with the news because Liu Xiabo is one of China’s most well known dissidents and is currently serving an 11 year jail sentence. Therefore, the news was pretty hush hush around here. (I read the news online with the help of my VPN which allows me to get around the Chinese internet censorship.) The latest news seems to be that China is requesting an apology from the Nobel committee, and Liu’s wife has been put under house arrest.
Since I have no required syllabus or guidelines for the classes that I teach, in one of my classes I asked my students to write down topics that they would like to learn about this semester. I got a lot of suggestions for learning about the NBA, how China is different from the US, famous places around the world…and, as one student suggested, the Nobel Peace Prize. When I shared the suggested topics with the class, I didn’t really delve into each in much depth. But when the students saw “Nobel Prize” as one of the possible topics, they all kind of giggled knowingly. I didn’t dare push the topic further for fear of someone reporting me to the authorities (!!!) but it was nice to see that my students seemed to be informed about what was going on despite the media censorship.
NPR’s All Things Considered had an interesting piece about the potential impact of Liu’s Nobel Prize. I quoted an excerpt below, but go check out the 4 minute clip if you have time.
BLOCK: Rob, are you able to foresee any broad impact of this Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, any long-term effects that it might have on the society there?
GIFFORD: Well, the bizarre thing, Melissa, is that when you just ask people what they think about it, you get one of two answers. The first is, who? Who’s that? Never heard of him. The second is, oh, yeah, I heard about that, whatever.
You know, people’s lives are so different. When you look at what happened, for instance in the Soviet Union in 1975, when Andrei Sakharov was awarded the prize, it was such a huge deal because Soviet society was so Soviet. It was so communist.
The Chinese Communist Party here has given so much social and economic freedom to the people, although not political freedom, that they don’t really care. They’re too busy making a killing on the stock market or in real estate. And that is the really striking thing is that that is where the change is really happening right now.
There may be some political change to come, but I’m not sure that this is going to be a massive step in bringing it about.