Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize and the call for democratization in China.

On October 8, 2010, Liu Xiaobo of China was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Previously, Liu had taken part in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and had co-authored the ‘Charter 08’ document calling for multi-party democracy in China.  However, Liu is currently in prison serving an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.”  The Chinese government was outraged with the announcement that Liu would receive the Nobel Peace Prize and exclaimed,  “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who has been sentenced by Chinese judicial departments for violating Chinese law.”  In contrast, the Nobel Committee stated that, “Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.”  It remains to be seen, whether awarding Liu the Nobel Peace Prize is a small step towards encouraging political reform within China that would eventually lead towards democratization.


  1. There is a good possibility that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo will encourage more peaceful protests and create more human rights for Chinese citizens in the long run. However, in the near future, there could be the unintended result of increased violence. Already citizens of China that support the release of Liu are being arrested and harassed by the police. The Chinese government is taking great measures to ensure that human rights protesters are not encouraged to continue or increase their efforts. With the protesters’ encouragement from the award and the government’s anger at it, there could be a very violent clash between the two groups.

  2. While it is nice to think that Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize will lead to an improvement on human rights for Chinese Citizen’s, China’s track record shows that a future change is unlikely. The only force likely to have any effect on China is money. Over the last several years, China has become one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a prime target for investment by the economic powers of the west. Until western nations decide to put all out economic pressure on China to change it’s human rights policies, change is not going to occur. Mere lip service to the issue of human rights will accomplish little as long as the west continues to go about business as usual with China. If China were put in a position where it’s economic well-being were seriously at risk of collapse, then maybe the possibility of improved human rights could be a reality.

  3. While Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize may eventually increase the likelihood of human rights protections, these developments are likely to be slow-going. Factors inhibiting this progression include that the government controls the regulation of information to and from the citizens of China, the majority of the population in China lives in the rural areas, and the citizens do not have open access to news and electronic media as do the citizens of Western countries. Further, corporations from the West continue to contract with Chinese manufacturers that force long work hours for little pay. These circumstances are likely to stifle the mass movement needed to force human rights reform. Leaders like Liu Xiaobo are needed to bring about change, but change will only occur if and when the people can rally behind them. Unfortunately, given many social, political, and economic barriers, this will likely not be anytime soon.

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