Making a case:
Drawing upon the articles you read for homework and the materials from units 5 and 6, complete this chart (Google Doc) examining the case for and against imprisoning Liu Xiaobo.
How should we weigh sources like The New York Review of Books against Xinhua (the official press agency of the People's Republic of China)? Should we treat them as equally credible? Why or why not?
How should the sources above be handled in comparison with primary sources, e.g. Liu Xiaobo’s essays and the court’s judgments?
Which sources missing from our reading selection last night would you like to see to be able to make a better judgment about Liu Xiaobo?
Liu Xiaobo declares that “I have no enemies, no hatred. . . . I hope that I can answer the regime’s enmity with utmost benevolence, and can use love to dissipate hate.” (Liu, 322-23). What other historical figures does he seem to draw inspiration from in making such a statement? In your view, is he more or less likely to succeed than these figures? Why?
What can we establish as Liu Xiaobo’s view of the West’s relationship to China? Does this draw into question his patriotism? Is it significant for Liu to be patriotic? Why or why not?
Liu Xiaobo suggests that “crude nationalism is being whipped up from time to time to distract attention from more disturbing issues.” (Leys) How does this claim fit with your understanding of Osnos’s description of the “Angry Youth”?
Liu also points out that the younger generation “has no patience at all for people who talk about suffering in history. . . . A huge Great Leap famine? A devastating Cultural Revolution? A Tian’anmen massacre? All of this criticizing of the government and exposing of the society’s ‘dark side’ is, in their view, completely unnecessary.” (Leys). What are the costs and benefits of facing difficult histories? Would it be better to focus this energy on developing skills relevant for the future – say, economics or computer programming?
Perhaps more controversially, Liu also cites “sexual indulgence” as a “handy partner for a dictatorship,” arguing that together with the problem greed, China is facing “the moral collapse of a society that has been emptied of all values.” (Leys). What do you make of this claim?
One further point was, as Leys summarizes, “any action can be justified if it upholds the dictatorship or results in greater spoils.” (Leys). Assuming for a moment that Liu is correct, is it reasonable to argue that the means of authoritarianism justify the ends of stability and economic growth?
On December 25, 2008, Liu Xiaobo was sentenced to eleven years in prison and “the deprivation of political rights for two years. The court’s judgment read, in part: “It is the judgment of this court that Defendant Liu Xiaobo, with the goal of overthrowing the state power of the People’s Democratic Dictatorship and the socialist system of our country, took advantage of the Internet with its features of rapid transmission, broad reach, large influence on society, and high degree of public notice…. His actions have constituted the crime of incitement to subvert state power, have persisted through a long period of time, and show deep subjective malice. The articles that he posted, which spread widely through links, copying, and visits to websites, had a despicable influence. He qualifies as a criminal whose crimes are severe and deserves heavy punishment according to law. . . . Liu Xiaobo’s actions have exceeded the scope of freedom of speech and constitute crimes.” (Liu, 337-38).