- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
With apologies to FP’s Chinese readers, here’s an automated translation of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu Quan’s reaction to the news of Liu Xiabo’s Nobel Peace Prize. The original is here. Chime in with any suggested improvements in the comments section.
Q: The Nobel Committee on October 8 this year’s Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Chinese "dissident," Liu Xiaobo, what is your comment?
A: The Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded "to promote national harmony and promote international friendship and to promote disarmament and peace for the convening of meetings and promotional efforts of the people", which is Nobel’s wishes. Liu is in breach of Chinese law by the Chinese judicial organs of criminals sentenced to imprisonment, and its behavior and contrary to the purpose of the Nobel Peace Prize. Connaught Committee awarded the Peace Prize to such a person, completely contrary to the purpose of the award and also the desecration of the Peace Prize.
Q: Liu Xiaobo award will affect the Sino-Norwegian relations?
A: In recent years, Sino-Norwegian relations have maintained sound development, which is conducive to the two countries and two peoples interests. Connaught Committee Liu and Nobel Peace Prize award runs counter to the purpose, will bring damage to the Sino-Norwegian relations.
A long-time Beijing resident and political observer emails the following reaction to the award:
I think it was an own-goal by Beijing, bungled in the usual ham-fisted way. If they hadn’t leaned on Norway in such a comically villainous manner, there might have been voices on the committee who’d say, "Sure, Liu’s courageous, but is he the man who ‘…shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses’"?
More interestingly is what happens now.
My guess is that it will be untenable to keep Liu Xiaobo incarcerated for much longer. Beijing, as is its habit, will watch very carefully to gauge the level of popular anger online about the fact that Liu’s still in jail, monitoring microblogs like Sina Weibo (http://t.sina.com/) and online forums like Tianya and Baidu Tieba as well as the number of times the word "Nobel" or "???" (Liu Xiaobo) gets sent via IM or SMS. From what my friend watching Sina Weibo [tells me], just an hour after the announcement "Nobel" is already the top-trending term.
My correspondent didn’t anticipate, however, that the Chinese government would hit back so hard (some are translating Jiang’s remarks as labeling the award an "obscenity"):
I think Beijing will know better than to come out strongly in condemnation of the Nobel Committee’s decision; instead, they’ll couch their responses in terms of "We regret that this decision was made" and deny that he’s a "political prisoner" (saying instead that Liu violated laws against subversion and incited for the overthrow of the Chinese Communist Party, which to Beijing doesn’t qualify him, as odd as this may sound, as a political prisoner). They’ll look for some means of a face-saving stand-down — to "step off the dais" gracefully, as they say in Chinese. They may try and get Liu out of the country (Chinese dissidents once abroad are notoriously ineffective), but Liu has refused to play along when that sort of solution has been proposed before, and has said he’d rather be in jail in China than exiled. So they’re in a really tough spot.
Bottom line: "If Beijing hadn’t lobbied as hard as it did to deny the prize to Liu Xiaobo, perhaps it would have gone to another nominee."