刘晓波 was a prisoner of the Chinese state when, in 2010, he was named the Nobel Peace Prize recipient. The prize committee noted, "For over two decades, Liu Xiaobo has been a strong spokesman for the application of fundamental human rights in China." It was that advocacy that led the Chinese party-state to imprison Liu in 2008.
The Chinese government responded to the award announcement by imposing economic sanctions on Norway and pressured countries to stay away from the award ceremony. It further denied permission for his wife or others to go to receive the prize on his behalf. Not long before his death from liver cancer, foreign specialists examined Liu, but he was not permitted to go abroad for treatment. His wife, Liu Xia 刘霞
, endured unofficial house arrest while Liu was in prison and since his death has been kept in virtual seclusion. She has not been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime.
Born in 1955, Liu came to prominence as a literary scholar. He was inspired, though, by the example of students who in spring 1989 occupied Tiananmen Square to call for freedom of speech and travel and to oppose official corruption and rising prices. He returned to Beijing from the United States to join the protests, becoming a leader. He was among those jailed after the crackdown, but he emerged as committed as ever to promoting human rights and democracy. Two additional prison stints didn't change that. In 2008, Liu was the lead author of Charter 08. It marked the 100th anniversary of China's first constitution and argued that China's problems could largely be attributed to the autocratic party-state. Charter 08 called for the embrace of human rights and the establishment of a democratic system of government. Liu was taken away on December 8, 2008 and held until his death in July. He would have turned 62 this week.Click here for our full obituary for Liu Xiaobo and additional resources.
Zbigniew K. Brzezinski
U.S. Sec. of State Cyrus Vance, Deng Xiaoping and Zbigniew Brzezinski
was born in Poland in 1928. He earned a doctorate at Harvard and subsequently taught there and at Columbia. In the mid-1960s, Brzezinski joined the U.S. State Department and won the ears of Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson and later Democratic presidential candidate Herbert Humphrey. Shared worries about Soviet Union intentions helped propel the U.S.-China relationship forward, but Brzezinski expected that, over time, positive U.S.-China ties would depend on more than a partnership against Soviet aggression. In 1976, Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter's principal foreign policy advisor and when he became president was named national security advisor.
Carter came into office in 1977 hoping to normalize relations with China. Within the first three weeks, he met at the White House with Huang Zhen 黄镇, head of the PRC liaison office, telling him, "We believe the Taiwan question rests in the hands of the Peoples Republic of China and in the people of Taiwan. Nothing would please us more than to see a peaceful resolution of this question. We understand that this is an internal matter, but we have a long-standing hope and expectation that it can be settled in peaceful ways.
" The administration hoped Beijing would make such a pledge or at least not assert that, if necessary, it would use whatever means it wanted to settle the "Taiwan question." As they continue to do today, party-state officials asserted a sovereign right to use force to settle what they consider an internal matter.
When Brzezinski went to Beijing in May 1978, however, Deng told him that relations between Beijing and Washington could be reestablished on the "Japanese model," meaning that China would accept that the U.S. would continue to have unofficial ties with Taiwan. In messages to Carter and others, Brzezinski wrote that he thought Chinese leaders had signaled tolerance for modest ongoing arms sales to Taiwan.
（See meeting notes in our US-China documents collection
.）During his meeting with Deng Xiaoping, Brzezinski invited the Chinese leader to visit his home as part of a visit to the United States.
In 2015, Chinese filmmaker Fu Hongxing 傅红星used animation to tell the story of Deng Xiaoping's visit to Brzezinski's home in his documentary Mr. Deng Goes to Washington
. In the documentary, there's a problem in the kitchen that results in smoke coming out of the house. In 2006, Brzezinski recalled that Mika, his young daughter（and now an MSNBC anchor）spilled caviar on Deng, who "kind of flicked it off very, very skillfully."
After leaving government in 1981, Brzezinski continued researching, writing, and advising. Engaged to the end, Brzezinski had this to say about China's Belt and Road Initiative, "It's an expansion westward by China which greatly increases Chinese access to the world as a whole, and indirectly to control over what was once part of the Soviet Union without in any way intimating that they're seeking control over these parts and asserting their domination. And it's very hard to resist. It seems legitimate. It seems appropriate. And in many respects, it is. But it alters the balance of power between China and Russia immensely."
|U.S. Pres. George W. Bush and Qian Qichen, 2001|
, b. 1928. Qian was a career diplomat who rose to serve on the Communist Party's Politburo 1992-2002 and was Minister of Foreign Affairs 1988-1998. He was posted to the Soviet Union in 1954-1964 and 1972-1982. He was heavily involved in preparing for the return of Hong Kong and Macau to Chinese control. It fell to Qian to deal with the United States and other countries after the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. He negotiated with Bush and Clinton administration officials seeking to get economic sanctions against China lifted. He insisted, however, that outside pressure wouldn't change China. In an Oct. 1989 speech in New York, he took issue with those who said,"Sino-U.S. relations cannot be repaired unless China does something... Exponents of such a view have completely confounded right and wrong... [T]he current difficulties in Sino-U.S. relations have arisen not because China has done anything to damage the U.S. interests, but because the United States has applied sanctions against China...
[I]t is entirely China's internal affair as to what policy and move[s] it should adopt in handling its purely domestic matters."At the time of that speech, Qian's son, Qian Ning, was in his first semester at the University of Michigan.
In a 1996 book, Studying in America
, he wrote about his first days on campus, "This world in front of my eyes was so different from the world on Tiananmen Square, that it was impossible to connect them together in my mind, but at that moment, I understood a simple thing. We Chinese -- at least the younger generation of Chinese -- can have a different kind of life, free from the repetitious political movements in the past and life-and-death struggles.
" After graduate school, Qian Ning returned to China, working for the accounting consultancy Coopers and Lybrand（now part of PwC）.
Qian Qichen was given a state funeral. President Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao were among those attending.
William Theodore de Bary
|William Theodore de Bary and U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, 2013|
, b. 1919. "Ted" de Bary was among the most influential American scholars of China. Generations of English-reading students used the Sources of Chinese Tradition
anthologies he edited of translated Chinese philosophical, religious and political writing. It was just one of the dozens of books he published during his decades as a Columbia University faculty member. President Barack Obama recognized his contributions with the National Humanities Medal in 2013. Obama said, "de Bary's efforts to foster a global conversation have underscored how the common values and experiences shared by Eastern and Western cultures can be used to bridge our differences and build trust."
Among his other awards was the 2016 Tang Prize for Sinology（which included a cash award of $1.24 million）.
When one of his last books, The Great Civilized Conversation
（2013）, came out, de Bary told an interviewer that what students and others most needed to do was "learn to read the texts.
The process is very important. You read the texts and size them up for yourself. Then you get together with your peers and discuss to see what they think. Have they drawn the same conclusions? Have the classics spoken to them in the same way?" He argued that pushing the humanities out of the curriculum was based on the mistaken view that the purpose of reading classics was to honor them. De Bary insisted that the point was to engage questions that have preoccupied people for millennia. He did this repeatedly, for example drawing on the writings of Confucius and other Chinese thinkers to examine issues such as Confucianism and human rights（1998）. De Bary conceded that Confucianism was weak in offering primarily moral restraint and ritual as limits on autocrats, but he argued that Confucianism often contained "certain central human values [e.g., ren 仁, benevolence/humanness] ... that could be supportive of [today's human] rights."The web version of Talking Points includes notes about these other individuals who passed in 2017.
Most were prominent and all were influential in interesting ways（e.g., several authors, the inventor of pinyin, a filmmaker who used birds-eye view to shock us, the man who brought Zhuang Zi, Han Fei, and Su Dongpo to English speakers, and a woman who broke toilets and glass ceilings）. Click here to read more