Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Who is boycotting the Nobel Prize Ceremony and what does it mean for Business?

Nobel peace prize: Who is boycotting the ceremony?

If you really want to know what your colleague or boss thinks of you, simply observe his spouce or partner's reaction to you at a social gathering.  To exprapolate from that premise all you have to do to see who is really aligning with China is to see who is boycotting the Nobel Prize Ceremony.

This year's Nobel peace prize was awarded this year to Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobo The move angered Beijing, which warned of "consequences" for governments attending the ceremony. The BBC's Paul Reynolds looks at which countries are not going, and why.

There are two major reasons why countries have decided to boycott Friday's Nobel ceremonies: firstly, that the prize went to a dissident and secondly, that the Chinese government has objected to the win.

That this year's prize went to a dissident has drawn criticism even in Norway. One historian of the prize, Fredrik Heffermehl, said that it diverged from Alfred Nobel's intention that the prize should go to the "champions of peace" to support their roles in the peace movement and in disarmament.

As described in Nobel's will, the peace prize was intended for "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".

This has opened the way for governments that are not sympathetic to dissidents to object and boycott the ceremony.

The second reason - the threat from China of the "consequences" of attending - is significant because China is reaching out across the world with economic muscle.

All 58 countries who have embassies in Oslo were invited to attend. A total of 18 countries, plus China, have said they will not be going: Russia, Kazakhstan, Colombia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Sudan, Ukraine, Cuba and Morocco. Some of their reasons are outlined below.


In early November, China warned that there would be "consequences" if governments showed support for Liu at the award ceremony. The Chinese government apparently returned their own invitation unopened.


The dissident factor looms large, here.

Fidel Castro, himself, wrote recently: "Let's hope to God this is just one of those ideological strikes that this once-prestigious honour has delivered over its long history, and not a new rule."

By "ideological strikes", he means that the committee is making a political point, to which he objects.


Venezuela has supported the Cuban position.


This is the China factor. Here, it is oil that is the key. China is an active investor in Iraqi oilfields and Iraq needs the income that produces.

The Associated Press noted earlier this year: "From among the most outspoken of critics of the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, China has emerged as one of the biggest economic beneficiaries of the war, snagging five lucrative deals.

"While Western firms were largely subdued in their interest in Iraq's recent oil auctions, China snapped up three contracts, shrugging off the security risks and the country's political instability for the promise of oil."


Both the dissident factor and the China factor are at play here.

Kazakhstan shares a border with China and is close to it politically and economically. There is an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan into China. They are both members of the Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO), a mutual security grouping in Asia that includes China and Russia as well.

The SCO secretary general, Muratbek Sansyzbayevich Imanaliyev, from Kyrgyzstan, said the prize should have followed Nobel's instruction that it be given to those working for peace, and he captured the flavour of opinion in the SCO when he said: "It is very regrettable that the Prize was awarded to a criminal who is now in prison."

Kazakhstan itself is regarded by human rights groups as authoritarian. The World Assembly of Turkic Peoples is proposing Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the Peace Prize himself next year.


The government would be eager to be seen as among the first to be standing with China, which enjoys a great deal of popularity among the general public and the ruling elite. The countries have strong economic and defence ties, and Pakistan sees China as its most important and resolute ally. It might also want to be seen not to be taking a soft line on political dissent - something Pakistan has a lot of in its current state of crisis, our correspondent says.


The dissident factor is key here. Morocco does not have vital economic ties to China, but it does have concerns over the principle that dissidents be awarded the Peace Prize. In particular, Morocco might be worried about Aminatu Haidar, a campaigner for the independence of the Western Sahara which Morocco controls. Ms Haidar has herself served time in prison in Morocco for her activities.


In early November, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Oslo said the ambassador would not be in Norway at the time of the award ceremony. "It is not politically motivated and we do not feel we are pressured by China," he told the Associated Press news agency.Russia does not need to cosy up to China and is large enough to take its own decisions. But the dissident factor is important here as well.
Russia is in an authoritarian mode, although it argues that it is simply re-imposing the discipline that was lost in the immediate post-Cold War period. Either way, it does not approve of an imprisoned dissident being given such a reward.

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