Friday, October 12, 2012

China's Nobel Laureates

Yesterday novelist Mo Yan became the third citizen of the People's Republic of China to win a Nobel prize. He joins Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, and Gao Xingjian, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2000. (Gao, technically, was a former citizen of the PRC when he won his prize, having been declared persona non grata by China before becoming a French citizen).

Unlike Liu, a human rights advocate who was imprisoned for subversion about a year before winning the Nobel Peace Prize (and whose award was condemned by the Chinese government), Mo has worked within the state's strict limits on political expression. In fact, social criticism in his novels is often shielded by the use of fantasy. Consequently, China's Communist leadership could celebrate his international recognition without worrying that it might have been intended as a slap at the regime.

In an important reversal, however, Mo called today for the release of Liu Xiaobo, a move "likely to infuriate China's leadership," according to the New York Times.