The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize winner, Mo Yan of China, attended the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in Stockholm last night. Western media claimed that freedom of expression was a topic that Mo could not avoid. Westerners have already formed a set way of thinking about China's freedom of expression, but they still expect Mo to vent his opinion so as to embarrass the Chinese government, or himself.
The right to freedom of expression is deemed to be above all human rights in the West, which has already undergone a surge in freedom of expression. Western society has made enough room for it.
This freedom and social structure have been adapting to each other for a long time. Among Western achievements, freedom of expression lies in the most superficial of places, but many Westerners believe it is the foundation of Western development.
Freedom of expression can be achieved easily regardless of the cost. Egypt did it almost overnight, but whether it "benefits" from such freedom as the West does is open to debate.
China's freedom of expression has not developed as it has done in the West, or even in countries such as Egypt and India. China's attitude toward freedom of expression is the same as that toward reforms. This freedom in China has been making progress in recent years, but without any revolutionary breakthroughs.
Should China's freedom of expression make its own way regardless of the progress in other fields? Some idealists believe so, which is what the West is inciting.
But so far, there has not been one successful case where freedom of expression has driven the overall development of society, while there are a number of cases where freedom of expression progressing prematurely has caused social disorder.
In China, no one would oppose the right to freedom of speech. The development of technology has helped the process through which this freedom is expanded.
The comparison between China and the West can let us learn from the West's advantages and reflect on our own problems.
However, asking a Chinese Nobel Prize winner, the focus of attention for millions of his compatriots, if his country has freedom of expression does nothing but seek to irritate.
Chinese people are fully aware that the country's development is far behind that of Western countries. They have also become aware that China has developed at its fastest in the past 30 years, at a rate that has amazed the whole world. Is there a development path, apart from the Western one, that specifically fits China?
Such thinking has been prevalent in China's mainstream society. Due to the West's past success and people's natural worship of ready achievements, quite a few believe the Western experience has universal values. But this is hardly the concept held by the majority. The West shouldn't misjudge that.
Freedom of expression will surely develop in China. But confronting China by asking why China doesn't have the same freedom of expression as the West is the most rotten way of going about it.