To see a note from the editor, click here.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

An Alternative Take

Today's edition of People's Daily Online features an interesting piece entitled 'West risks its own downfall with arrogance.' Rather than being an editorial, the article is a comment by Professor Zhang Weiwei, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Asian Studies, Geneva (linked to the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations). According to Zhang, the recent decision to award dissident Liu Xiaobo the Noble peace prize is another example of “western prejudice against China”. This is based on a fear of the rise of China- a phenomena which the author sees as an inevitability.

Certainly, Liu Xiaobo's has drawn strong criticism from various quarters in China, but Zhang Weiwei's strongly-worded condemnation of the award particularly stands out as representative of the differing opinions surrounding the actions of democratic reform campaigners like Liu. Here, in this People's Daily piece, we have a notable academic defending his government's policy and simultaneously attacking Western attitudes, with arguments that some his international colleagues would dispute. Clearly, it would be foolish to ever assume that intellectual support for the Chinese government is only found within the People's Republic itself.

Zhang also urges the West to question “its own assumptions about economic and political modernity”. This is an interesting point. Democratic government is naturally enough set up by the liberal democracies as the ideal political system, yet many forget that the Western value judgement on this form of government is not universally shared across the world. This is not to argue that the Chinese political system is superior to those of Great Britain or America, but the fact that Liu Xiaobo and others have their opponents as well as their supporters in China means that Chinese progress with political reform will have a different dynamic to past developments in other countries.


  1. What do we know about Zhang Weiwei? Has he made political comments like this before? What's the chance that this is just the Government using an academic stooge as a way of expressing its disquiet on the Nobel Prize situation...

  2. It would be wrong to thing that Professor Zhang Weiwei is just a 'stooge' of Beijing. Rather, as said in the post, his comments reflect a school of thought in Chinese academia which does not support the work of dissidents like Liu Xiaobo. Its a mistake to think that everyone in China would like political reform...


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