Who Needs Nobel: China Launches the Confucius Peace Prize

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Protesters demand the release of jailed Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles, California, on December 5, 2010, less than a week before the award ceremony in Oslo. (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been a tough month for China’s PR machine. First Beijing had to figure out what to do about its belligerent pals in North Korea, and now, as all eyes turn to Oslo for this week’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the government faces renewed global condemnation over the continued detention of this year’s Nobel laureate, Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo.

In Liu’s case, the settled-on solution — in tandem with having a government spokesperson call the Nobel committee “clowns” for having awarded a person Beijing considers a criminal the prize  — falls squarely in the if-you-can’t-join-them-beat-them category.

(Will Liu Xiaobo be TIME’s Person of the Year?)

This week, the inaugural Confucius Peace Prize was awarded — a newly launched, China-approved alternative to the Nobel. The first honoree is former Taiwan vice president Lien Chan for promoting peace between Taiwan and mainland China. Not much is known about the committee that awarded the prize, but its chairman told the AP that it works closely with the Ministry of Culture.

(See the top 10 political prisoners.)

In any case, it’s all happened pretty fast. The idea was publicly aired just three weeks back in an opinion piece run in the government-backed paper Global Times, which called for the establishment of a Confucius Peace Price in order to provide “the best opportunity for the Chinese to declare China’s view in peace and human rights to the world” and to “teach Westerners how to cultivate their own spirits and kindly treat people that have different national values and lifestyles.” (via AP)

(See pictures of Liu Xiaobo.)