Is US behind the Nobel Peace Prize and the frozen Sino-Norwegian relationship

By Yiwei Wu

“When Nobel decided that the Norwegian parliament should be responsible for the prize in the early 20th century, Norway was not into big power politics. However, many things have changed and today Norway has close alliance with the United States, which has the largest military force in the world,” says Ola Tunander, research professor at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

He adds, “The original idea of Alfred Nobel was to award people who have contributed to peace. For example, reducing the standing army or holding peace conferences.”

There has been debate about the Nobel Peace Prize for years. It’s still a problem whether today’s prize is according to the testament of Mr. Nobel or if it has too wide interpretation.

“Not only the Peace Prize Committee is important, the secretary of the Committee is also important (for the prize).” he adds, “And it has been the same person since 1990, for more than twenty years.”

The person he mentioned is Geir Lundestad, who serves as the director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute and also as the secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. However, Geir Lundestad is not a member of the committee itself and is retiring at the end of 2014.

“First, it is him who decides who is shortlisted because there are so many people nominated. Second, in general the secretary is more competent so he has a lot of influence. Geir Lundestad is an expert in American history and has a wide network in the United States, which has been reported to have influence on the prize.” says Ola Tunander.

All five member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee are Norwegian nationals and most of them are former politicians. They come from different parties and roughly represent the parties in the Norwegian parliament.

The Conservative-led coalition that won power in elections in 2013 will gain a 3-2 majority on the committee from 2015. This could mean more prizes favored by Norway’s right-wing. And little-known individuals who fight for democracy and human rights may
have larger chance to win the prize.

“The way the Committee is put together also makes it difficult to follow the original intent of the prize.” says Ola Tunander.

When it comes to the frozen Sino-Norwegian relationship concerning 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, he says that when Liu Xiaobo leaves jail, maybe he can come to Oslo to receive the prize and it will again become a big media event. After that, there would be a solution to develop a better relationship with China.

This year, the Norwegian government refused an official meeting with Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader. “As a state, leaders usually don’t meet representatives of a region that wants to gain independence. For example, Norwegian prime minister doesn’t meet with the Scottish independence leader, or leaders of Catalan independent movement or so on. In China, Dalai Lama is such a representative. But Norwegian media report this as a choice
between morality and economy growth, using headlines like Soul or Salmon.”