China’s Confucius Prize

A Chinese award to rival the Nobel 

Named after the famed philosopher, the new prize was created to “interpret the viewpoints of peace of (the) Chinese (people),” the awards committee said in a statement it released to the AP on Tuesday.

…The first honoree is Lien Chan, Taiwan’s former vice president and the honorary chairman of its Nationalist Party, for having “built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan.”

I think there should be a healthy debate about alternate conceptions of ‘rights’. The Confucius prize could have been an opportunity to further the debate. Check out this paper by Elizabeth Perry where she argues that Chinese have an alternate conception of rights, which need not match Western ideals and that, in turn doesn’t make it any less legitimate (excerpts from the abstract) 

In this article, an examination of Chinese conceptions of “rights,” as reflected in the ethical discourses of philosophers, political leaders, and protesters (and as contrasted with American understandings of rights), provides the basis for questioning prevailing assumptions about the fragility of the Chinese political order. For over two millennia, Chinese political thought, policy, and protest have assigned central priority to the attainment of socioeconomic security. As a result, the meaning of “rights” in Chinese political discourse differs significantly from the Anglo-American tradition.

But with a hasty announcement and an extremely unsavoury PR job over Liu Xiaobo, China might just have messed up this time and lost an opportunity to engage with the rest of the world in a worthwhile debate

Update on 9/12/10: Oops, what a joke!


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