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A security guard stands outside the house of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, in Beijing. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
A security guard stands outside the house of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, in Beijing. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)

World Peace

With China's peace prize, the only winner is China Add to ...

Call it the Made-in-China Peace Prize - and those opposed to Communist Party rule need not apply.

With the country's leadership writhing in anger over the selection of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo as the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded Friday in Oslo, a Chinese organization has established a rival Confucius Peace Prize that will be handed out one day before the Nobel.

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It was unclear whether the organizers of the Confucius prize had any official backing, although the idea was first floated last month in the Communist Party-run Global Times newspaper. On their website, the Confucius committee said that "China is a symbol of peace…. With over one billion people, it should have a greater voice on the issue of world peace."

The website dismissed Norway, which hosts the Nobel Peace Prize, as "only a small country with scarce land area and population" that was thus unable "to represent the viewpoint of most people."

The winner of the inaugural award was immediately announced to be Lien Chan, a Taiwanese politician who in 2005 travelled to Beijing for a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, marking the first time the heads of the Communist Party of China and Taiwan's Kuomintang had met since the end of the civil war that left Taiwan split from the mainland.

However, a staffer in Mr. Lien's office in Taipei said they had never heard of the prize and did not expect he would be in Beijing on Thursday to collect it.

Runners-up for the award apparently included Bill Gates, Nelson Mandela and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. All would likely be surprised to hear they had been considered for the prize.

Also on the list of finalists were Chinese poet Qiao Damo and Gyaincain Norbu, the Tibetan named by Beijing as Panchen Lama, the second-ranking monk in Tibetan Buddhism. However, his status is hotly contested since the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, identified another six-year-old boy as the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama's choice disappeared in China 15 years ago.

In a brief telephone interview with The Globe and Mail, Tan Changliu, the chairman of the Confucius committee, was short on specifics of the new award. He said, however, that there would be "a trophy, money, whatever you can think of" for Mr. Lien at a ceremony Thursday at Beijing's News Plaza Hotel, a state-owned building near the centre of the Chinese capital.

Liu Zhiqin, the Chinese businessman who first proposed the creation of a Confucius prize, wrote in the Global Times that in choosing Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel judges had "[supported]a criminal while creating 1.3 billion 'dissidents' that are dissatisfied with the Nobel committee."

The announcement of the Confucius prize's establishment came one day after a Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters in Beijing that the Norwegian Nobel Committee were "a few clowns" who "are orchestrating an anti-China farce by themselves."

China has called on foreign countries to boycott Friday's ceremony honouring Mr. Liu, a long-time opponent of the Communist Party who is serving an 11-year jail term for co-writing a pro-democracy manifesto known as Charter 08. So far, ambassadors from at least 18 countries - most of them boasting either significant trade links with Beijing, or run by similarly authoritarian regimes with their own jailed dissidents - have declined invitations to attend the ceremony in Oslo.

Mr. Liu's wife and many other prominent dissidents have been placed under house arrest to prevent them from travelling to Oslo. Others who were asked by Ms. Liu to attend on her husband's behalf have been denied permission to travel outside China for reasons of "state security."

It seems certain that Mr. Liu's chair will be empty when his commendation is read out at the ceremony on Friday. The Nobel Committee has said his medal - and the $1.4-million award that comes with it - will remain in Oslo until he or one of his close family members can collect it.

China isn't the first country to try and set up a rival to the Nobel Prize after an embarrassing win by one of its citizens. Adolf Hitler ordered the creation of the short-lived German National Prize for Art and Science in 1936, one year after journalist Carl von Ossietzky won the Peace Prize from inside the KZ Esterwegen concentration camp.

Mr. Von Ossietzky was the last laureate whose prize went uncollected.

Follow on Twitter: @markmackinnon

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