On the second Friday in October, the customary day, the Norwegian Nobel Committee made its big announcement. This is the committee that determines the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And, this year, the committee announced for a Chinese dissident — an imprisoned Chinese dissident named Liu Xiaobo. This is a gratifying, even a thrilling, Nobel decision.
Last year’s was much different. The 2009 laureate was, is, President Obama. He has not made human rights or democracy a hallmark of his foreign policy. He has certainly not lent a hand to the Chinese democracy movement. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled the mood of the administration early. In February 2009, a month after Obama was sworn in, she was discussing Sino-American relations. And she said that human rights would not “interfere” with such urgent issues as “the global climate-change crisis.” The Nobel Committee noted and appreciated Obama’s unwillingness to rock the boat, where human rights were concerned. Presenting the award to Obama in December 2009, Thorbjorn Jagland, the committee chairman, cited the president’s “cooperation with Beijing.”