Monday, October 12, 2009

On The Great Contest Of Ideas

George W. Bush, love him or hate him, has had a profound influence over the world in which we live in. One, admittedly insignificant, indicator of this influence is the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama for essentially being "not George W. Bush."

The United States and the world will be grappling with the implications of the Bush and Obama presidencies for years, if not decades, to come. As the first two administrations called upon to react to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the Panic of 2008, these contrasting world views are essentially competing with one another on everything from markets v. regulation to unilateralism v. multilateralism.

Five former members of the Norwegian Parliament have weighed in with their sentiments on this competition, stating that thanks to the efforts of Obama, "Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened."

In recognition of just how contested this premise is at the moment, here are the reactions of a few Chinese activists and dissidents...

"For nearly all of my friends, their first reaction was that they were very, very disappointed. They thought this is a major setback for human rights." (James B. Chen)

"The Nobel Peace Prize committee has the full right to decide to give coal to those who suffer and struggle or to present flowers to the powerful. It is both a pity for the Chinese people and a danger to world peace." (Huang Ciping)



At 9:04 AM, Blogger Leslie said...

How come? I sadly don't know enough about Chinese politics and/or American impact on them. Is Obama weak on getting China to improve the human rights situation in China? (Or anywhere else, for that matter?)

At 11:57 AM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

According to some activists, they see the Obama administration as taking a weak stance on human rights, as part of an overall strategy of enhancing US-China relations. The meeting that didn't happen last week with the Dalai Lama is one little example of what they are talking about.

There are other considerations driving this displeasure, considerations that have nothing to do with Obama. In a year of big anniversaries in China (60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama fleeing Tibet, 20th anniversary of Tiananmen Square), some activists had hoped that a Chinese dissident would be tapped for the award.



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