Don't speak: the art of toeing the line in China | Bangkok Post: opinion

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Don't speak: the art of toeing the line in China

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The most-heard line across China in the past week was ''Have you ever read a Mo Yan book?'' The question echoed in walkways, elevators and my office canteen. In Beijing, his books have been sold out since last Friday, shortly after he was announced the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Wall Street Journal immediately ran an excerpt of his new book which will be launched in January, while the share price of Xinhua Media, a partner of Shanghai Literature & Art, one of Mo's publishers, rose 10% in a single day's trade. 

Needless to say, people in China are overjoyed with the Nobel Committee's decision this year. The excitement and obsession with the Nobel prize _ now nicknamed ''Mobel'' _ again serves as validation of China's significance in the world. ''He is the first Chinese person to win the Nobel prize,'' my friend said in a proud voice. But how about the other two, I asked? Doesn't your country have three Nobel laureates?

''At least, we want to honour the one who holds Chinese citizenship. Shouldn't we?'' My friend meant Gao Xingjian, China-born writer and French citizen who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2000. ''And how about Liu Xiabo?'' I asked about the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, who was jailed when the award was conferred and has been there since. There was no answer, and it was not surprising. It was reported that websites like Sina Weibo have blocked searches for certain words and phrases like ''Nobel Peace Prize''. In China's collective thought, Mo is the first Nobel laureate from the People's Republic of China. The wait is over.

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