Margaret Scott

Why is China Lashing Out?

China's recent bullying of its neighbors, and its refusal to allow the renminbi to appreciate, stand in sharp contrast to the deftness of its foreign policy over the last decade. So, is China drunk on its new great-power status, or is its assertiveness abroad a symptom of weakness at home?

NEW YORK – It must be galling for the Chinese government to keep seeing Nobel Prizes go to the wrong Chinese.

The first wrong Chinese was Gao Xingjian, a critical playwright, artist, and novelist, who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 2000, while living in exile in Paris. The latest is Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic and political writer, who was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace while serving a prison sentence for “subversion” of the Communist regime. Since the Dalai Lama is not a Chinese citizen, I will leave out his Nobel Peace Prize, though to China’s rulers it was perhaps the most irritating of all.

Yet the Chinese government’s response to Liu’s Nobel Prize has been extraordinary. Instead of a show of lofty disdain, or official silence, it made a colossal fuss, protesting fiercely about plots to undermine China, and putting dozens of prominent Chinese intellectuals, including Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest. As a result, the utterly powerless, hitherto quite obscure Liu Xiaobo, has become not only world famous, but much better known inside China, too.

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