In awarding Liu the prize, the Nobel Committee sent a clear message to China’s Communist leaders. After 60 years in power, 30 years of Western support for China’s economic and military modernization, and the international honor of the 2008 Olympics, Beijing must deliver its long-promised political reform.
But recent US administrations have temporized with China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington and Beijing would have to “agree to disagree on human rights” so as not to disrupt the bilateral relationship in the current global economic crisis. Similarly, Mr. Obama has downplayed his predecessor’s initial democracy “crusade.”
In announcing the president’s prize, the Nobel Committee made clear it was based on promise rather than accomplishment: “Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened. Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
In accepting his award, the president rejected the possibility of excusing human rights violators “by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development.” China is the main purveyor of that argument.