Just a few quick comments because I’ve been shamelessly enjoying the National Day “golden week” and now I’m enjoying the weekend following it.
I don’t really have much to say about the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner. Other people do. I didn’t follow the selection process nor did I read up on the other 236 candidates. Therefore, I can’t make any arguments on the “did he deserve it or not over so and so” side of things, which seemed to dominate the Obama win.
The side that is dominating the discourse right now, however, are the political ramifications surrounding China (or perhaps more accurately, the Chinese government). Honestly, it is unfolding exactly as expected. The Nobel is given to someone the Chinese government doesn’t like and — indulge my generalization here — the West and Western media cheers. China expresses its displeasure in its fairly unique way and the West and Western media cheers — and jeers — louder. Life goes on. For the vast majority of people, their awareness of human rights issues in China peak and then return to some pre-existing default level as they refocus on the trials and tribulations of their own daily lives. The cycle repeats.
I don’t think this award really advances human rights in China in any substantial practical sense. I do think it is a lightning rod that carries a lot of symbolism for the politics involved, and I think it is often used as such. I also think that’s understandable and that the symbolism of support and encouragement that comes from a Nobel Peace Prize does still mean something.
The other comment I feel compelled to make should really be posted over on chinaSMACK but since I no longer comment these days and especially not there, I’ll make it here: To all of you people expecting, demanding, and even harassing Fauna over their lack of coverage on the above Nobel Peace Prize story, knock it off. How completely oblivious, insensitive, and selfish are you guys?
- chinaSMACK translates what is popular or trending amongst Chinese netizens on the Chinese internet1. The idea is for non-Chinese readers to see what Chinese people are talking about as opposed to what foreigners are talking about. That’s their value proposition.
- Despite the buzz in “the West” over the Nobel Peace Prize, there aren’t a lot of Chinese netizen posts or comments to translate. Part of it is because the Chinese government is actively censoring media coverage and internet discussion about it and about Liu Xiaobo in general.
- I don’t blame newer readers of chinaSMACK but the older readers should already know that chinaSMACK has always avoided highly political topics. The current more generic About page doesn’t say so but those who have been following chinaSMACK since its younger days should remember the more personal About page where Fauna explicitly expressed a disinterest in political topics.
- If we ignore Fauna’s personal interests as the editorial force behind chinaSMACK, let’s talk about the very real consequences she could face as a Chinese citizen living in China publishing something the Chinese censors are on the prowl for. The least of her worries would be having her blog blocked from China2. That would suck as it is — trust me, I know — and over what? A topic that doesn’t even live up to her blog’s value proposition or her own interests?
- Now imagine what the worst of her worries could be. She’s not a foreign national nor is she even safely residing abroad, unlike the Dalai Lama or Rebiya Kadeer, or even Roland Soong. Nor does she owe it to anyone to be their political martyr.
Every so often, you might get a translated Chinese netizen comment that criticizes the Chinese government or the less than ideal living situations in China…but don’t get your hopes up. chinaSMACK covers some news, but it isn’t and never was a political news site, much less a “general” news site. It is and has always been an internet gossip site, and quite frankly, it’s pretty good at being what it is. For example, the biggest thing on the Chinese internet right now is indeed Xiao Yue Yue. Granted, chinaSMACK‘s post on her is a bit impotent since it doesn’t exactly convey just why she’s such a big deal right now. But, to be honest, even if Liu Xiaobo’s news wasn’t being censored, I’d still place my bets on Xiao Yue Yue being the bigger news item. Is this a tragedy? I don’t think so. It’s just life. Think about it, more people know about Old Spice Guy than any jailed human rights activist or dissident.
- Actually, sometimes those stories aren’t even really that popular but are apparently interesting enough for some of them to translate anyway. [↩]
- It wouldn’t likely be “harmonized” or deleted since it is actually physically hosted outside the country. [↩]