Saturday, October 09, 2010

Alternative History

Beijing, 8 October 2010 - Foreign Office spokeswoman Jiang Yu, her characteristic beaming smile even broader than usual, today expressed the Chinese government's pleasure at the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. "The entire nation shares in congratulating Liu on the award of this great honour, whose tireless work for human rights and democracy in China has benefited and endeared him to so many of our people." Jiang said. "A prestigious international honour given to any Chinese citizen is a matter of national pride for China."

Sadly the above is of course not the way it went - instead the sour-faced Jiang delivered her usual predictable stern lecture about not interfering in China's internaal affairs, and how it was shameful that such an honour should be given to someone China regards as a criminal. (Curious how many Nobel Peace Prize laureates have been regarded as criminals by their own governments in their time - Nelson Mandela and the still imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi come to mind - and even former terrorists such as Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat.)

So the opening paragraph above can be regarded as a piece of alternative history - a genre which has always fascinated me. The Man in the High Castle, Pavane, Bring the Jubilee - these were all on my reading list as a teenager. The great thing about such works is that by presenting a different yet strangely similar world to our own, they invite us to think about how even small changes could transform the world we live in.
"Some men see things as they are and say why - I dream things that never were and say why not." - George Bernard Shaw

P.S. Actually it appears they may have used a different spokesperson yesterday - which means that my "reality" is yet another alternate universe. Oh well.

And what is all this stuff about "China's first Nobel Peace Prize winner"? Since China insists that Tibetans are Chinese, shouldn't that be the second? They should feel doubly proud.

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