With the whole bo-ha about the Nobel Peace Prize slapping me in the face as I read my news on Google Reader, I stumbled across an interesting proposal in The Guardian’s editorial. Granted, I don’t think this would work on any practical level and I would agree that The Guardian’s editorial team should be spending their time in more constructive ways. But now that the genie has left the bottle, it’s worth just reading through exactly what is being proposed.
It won’t ever happen, but whether you just want a laugh or actually contemplate whether this might happen, its a good read.
In Oslo’s city hall the peace prize was yesterday plonked on an empty chair, a bizarre but moving gesture which – as the Nobel committee’s chairman explained – reinforced the case for honouring the absent laureate Liu Xiaobo. Locked up in his country, the Chinese democracy activist is one of several winners to have been barred from claiming the prize in person, but this was the first award since Carl von Ossietzky’s where it was not possible for a relation to do the honours instead, a shaming comparison for Beijing, since he was up against Nazi Germany.
The first thought is that this will make the Chinese sit up and think; the second, sadly, is that the news will be distorted by the media of the People’s Republic, which are so censored that Liu’s name is hardly known. Through the prize, the world has found a means of telling China to change; the more demanding next step is to find a way of making it listen, and so here is an idea. China does not exist in splendid isolation, but prospers by engaging globally – trade figures only yesterday showed exports rocketing by 35% over the past year. With all this commerce comes correspondence, and foreign currency that builds up in Beijing’s bank-vault-busting reserves.
If all those nations that weren’t bullied into boycotting the ceremony agreed to put Liu on their notes and stamps, then the Chinese people would grow curious to find out more about him. As for the authorities, they would face a choice – between refusing the world’s message and refusing its money.