Liu Xiaobo, a brave dissident

The current Chinese leadership have all read Alexis de Tocqueville’s The Ancien Regime and the French Revolution and also closely studied the periods leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1911 Chinese revolution and the fall of the Soviet Union.

Their conclusion is that authoritarian systems are at their most vulnerable when they attempt to liberalise. The Chinese Communist party must therefore avoid this at all costs.


To understand the ruthless authoritarian logic behind Beijing’s treatment of Liu is not to excuse or condone it. But it is important for people outside China to understand it, especially as China becomes more prominent and active on the world stage.

This is how Liu himself put it in 2006: “Although the regime of the post-Mao era is still a dictatorship, it is no longer fanatical but rather a rational dictatorship that has become increasingly adept at calculating its interests.”

Jamil Anderlini, “The logic behind China’s treatment of Liu Xiaobo“, Financial Times, 19 July 2017 (gated paywall).

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo (born 1955) died on 13 July 2017. Liu was formally arrested on 23 June 2009, tried on 23 December 2009, and sentenced to eleven years’ imprisonment (his fourth imprisonment) on 25 December 2009. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.


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