In the last 20 years, America’s political, media, and business establishments have done their best to rehabilitate the image of China’s Communist government. After all, there’s a lot of money to be made by playing nice with China and looking the other way when Beijing continues to routinely commit human rights atrocities. But despite this massive PR undertaking on behalf of a murderous and oppressive government, it’s very hard to spin all of their actions all of the time.
And so the news came down last week that China had handed out a new Confucius peace prize, which is often referred to, without a trace of irony or insincerity, as “China’s Nobel Peace Prize.” That’s because the Confucius prize was set up in 2010 by the Chinese government as an angry response to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee honoring imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Fittingly, the recipient of the latest Confucius prize is none other than Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe. Far from deserving a “peace prize,” Mugabe would be a strong contender if you were giving some sort of award for “Worst Person on Earth.” In fact, new documents emerged earlier this year that seem to prove what was long suspected—that Mugabe directly ordered the Gukurahundi massacres in the mid-1980s, in which Zimbabwe’s notorious Fifth Brigade killed 20,000 of his own citizens. And that’s just the first thing that springs to mind on the extensive list of the 91-year-old despot’s crimes.
Nonetheless, a statement issued along with the prize characterized his reign of terror thus: “Ever since Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the president of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, he has worked hard to bring political and economic order to the -country and to improve the welfare of the Zimbab-wean people by overcoming hardship.” Even if this statement didn’t essentially libel the innocents Mugabe killed, it’s not even remotely true. If “political and economic order” is the relevant yardstick, Zimbabwe is a hellhole and Mugabe is responsible for the current conditions.
While Mugabe beat out Bill Gates and South Korean president Park Geun-hye for the award, which comes with a gold statue of the ancient philosopher and a cash prize of about $80,000, he is not the only mass murderer to have received the award. Fidel Castro was given the award last year, allegedly for his efforts to prevent nuclear warfare. Compared with Mugabe and Castro, Vladmir Putin—another past recipient—seems like a choirboy.
If this award reflects the values of the Chinese government, and there’s a strong case that it does, the honoring of Mugabe ought to be an outrage. But the ravages of communism and Mugabe be damned, the media know full well who really is history’s greatest monster. There’s been more ink spilled across more column inches this year condemning the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist than in covering all the human rights abuses in China and Zimbabwe combined.