Confucius Peace Prize fails to gain traction

By Xue Lei Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-23 23:00:04

Recently, the Confucius Peace Prize released the nominators for this year's prize, the awarding ceremony of which will be held on December 9. This prize has been sponsored by a Chinese non-governmental organization, the "China International Peace Research Center" since 2011.

It has received attention from some foreign media. According to reports in the Associated Press, the setting up of China's Confucius Peace Prize was intended to protest the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize award to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

This year will witness the third Confucius Peace Prize since its setup. However, the previous two award ceremonies of this prize didn't go very well. The laureates selected never showed up nor even cared about receiving such a prize.

Some observers saw the affair as a complete farce. The award was given to a terrified small child, supposed to represent Kuomintang Honorary Chairman Lien Chan at the first ceremony and two Russian hotties, supposed to represent Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the second, which just added to the entertainment value.

The award has been widely mocked, especially after the organizers squabbled and split into two different groups at one point.

If you want to design and set up an international prize, there are two things that need consideration at the very beginning: procedure and purpose.

The prize selection process should be fair and transparent. A fair and transparent process could increase the credibility of the prize and make it more authoritative in the eye of the public.

Transparency means the organizers of various prizes should give the public a clear road map of the whole selection process, ranging from candidates' nomination to review by an expert panel.

Fairness demands that the composition of the expert review panel should be inclusive and representative, covering various related areas and different regions. It also requires that the organizers should have basic qualifications for all the potential candidates and avoid arbitrary judgments.

However, many Chinese prizes have received a lot of domestic skepticism. For instance, the "Backbone of China" prize is supposed to reward people who have made great contributions to China.

But in 2011, it was accused of possible insider deals. The doubts arise either from the lack of fairness, or from insufficient transparency.

It's natural for the public to doubt the outcome if they don't see the selection process clearly. And the Confucius Peace Prize is not just an ordinary Chinese domestic prize. It is called a peace prize, and the laureates are globally renowned.

Under these circumstances, there will be mounting suspicion without a transparent and open selection process and approach. And if the organizers of the Confucius Peace Prize really want to make it a time-honored and influential prize, they need to first work hard to avoid it being seen purely as a politicized move.

There is also another aspect of even more importance, that is, the public diplomacy considerations inherent in this prize-giving process.

Public diplomacy requires us to think in a global way while standing firm on our own cultural heritage. We need a subtle combination of these two aspects. Sometimes original good intentions only lead to subsequent misunderstanding if we do not bear in mind the balance of domestic and universal value.

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu by the Norwegian Nobel Committee demonstrated the great difficulties China faces in influencing international discourse. And the Confucius Peace Prize is a good attempt to find China's own voice in the world.

If the prize miraculously becomes a success later, it may convey more of the core values of Chinese culture and ideas, and show China's understanding and views on peace.

However, before that day really comes, long-term efforts are still needed to further improve the organization of prizes.

The author is a research fellow at the Department of International Organization and International Law of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

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