ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Advocate of 'Humanitarian Imperialism'

Where does the human rights rhetoric of the recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize come from?

The Chinese government has been naïve in inadvertently making a hero of Liu Xiaobo, “human rights” activist and president of the Chinese PEN, which is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a quasi-private organisation supported by the United States Congress that came into being during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in order to strengthen political democracy and neoliberalism where, together, they were deemed to be in need of strong external backing. Liu was detained in December 2008 because of his association with the Charter 08 manifesto, which can be located in the rubric of human rights rhetoric that emphasises individual and political rights. Charter 08 also pitches for wholesale privatisation of public enterprises and farmland in China. This is just the kind of democracy that the NED funds and provides expertise and political backing for.

Tariq Ali, writing on the London Review of Books blog, summarises Liu’s political views as succinctly as one possibly can. One, if only China had been colonised by a western power for at least 300 years, it would have been civilised forever. Two, the US was basically fighting against totalitarianism in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and hence its “moral credibility” is unquestionable. Three, George Bush did the right thing in going to war with Iraq; 2004 Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry’s criticisms amounted to mere “slander-mongering”. And, four, Liu extends full support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) war in Afghanistan. Now what does one make of such views? Tariq labels Liu a neocon, of course, adding that he is entitled to his opinions, but rhetorically asks whether the Nobel committee should give him the Peace Prize. We think these views need to be dissected, for colonisation and all these imperialist wars were, after all, justified in humanitarian terms, which is what Liu repeats ad nauseam.

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