It would be safe to describe the Chinese government as having been "peeved" at Norway for the Nobel Peace Prize that Liu Xiaobo was awarded back in 2010. More than two years later, Beijing is still pissed off at Oslo, according to the Financial Times' Jamil Anderlini and Clare MacCarthy:
China is offering visa-free visits to Beijing for visitors from every European country except Norway, in what appears to be the latest in a string of punishments for the Nordic country since it gave a jailed Chinese dissident the Nobel peace prize in 2010.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five appointed by the Norwegian parliament, and committee members have always been Norwegian nationals.
On Wednesday, the Beijing city government unveiled a list of 45 countries whose citizens will be allowed to enter the city while in transit for 72 hours without a visa, starting from January 1.
Visitors from all 27 EU member states, as well as Iceland and Switzerland, will enjoy the new visa-free treatment, as will those from the US, Russia, Japan, Australia and most major Latin American countries.
When asked why Norway was left off the list, Wang Qin, a senior official at the Beijing government travel administration, did not respond directly but said that some countries were not eligible because their citizens or government were “of low-quality” and “badly behaved”. (emphasis added)
Yeah!! I've taught a few Norwegians in my day, and the whole lot of them are low quality and badly behaved, with their inscrutable fjords and smug blondness and their vague association with herring and their very specific association with lutefisk!!
In fact, I'm glad Wang Qin brought this up, because in the past couple of months a whole bunch of country rankings have come out, and they're an excellent way to bolster Wang's assertion of low Norwegian quality and bad behavior, especialy as compared with a peacefully rising China.
Why, just yesterday, Transparency International released their 2012 Corruptions Perception Index, and Norway ranks 7th and China ranks 80th!! Who's dirty now??!! [Ahem!--ed.] Oh.... Norway's the 7th least corrupt economy and China is... way more corrupt.
Well, there's more than one ranking system! A few weeks ago the World Justice Project released their 2012 Rule of Law Index. I bet that shows how dirty Norway really is!! [Ahem!--ed.] Oh... Norway is actually pretty good on rule of law issues, including ranking first among all 97 countries in civil justice. Whereas China is.... um... not as good, ranking 94th out of 97 countries on fundamental rights.
Well, even if Norway's government is pretty good, I bet their low quality, badly behaved people make the country an unlivable hellhole compared to Beijing. [Ahem!!--ed.] Oh... so based on Legatum's 2012 Prosperity Index, Norway is actually the most prosperous country in the world, whereas China ranks.... 55th.
[But that's just because Norway's rich!! What have they done for the rest of the exploited developing world??!!--ed.cn] Excellent point, oh great and glorious Beijing-based editor!! Why, when we go to the Center for Global Development's 2012 Commitment to Development Index, we find that... that... Norway is the second-most supportive country for assisting the developing world. Son of a....
Look, it kills me to write this. I use to have great fun teasing my Norwegian students about the whaling and the high agricultural import barriers, just so they wouldn't think they were all that and a bag of chips. But if China thinks Norway is a country of low quality and bad behavior, then China would be what happened if Lindsay Lohan hooked up with Kid Rock at 4 AM after a two-day coke bender and three bottles of Patron.
In other words, Wang Qin wins this week's Vizzini Award.
Step back for a moment and imagine what a "good" international organization should look like. Presumably, it should be relatively transparent and representative. It should earn a reputation for competency, efficiency, and an aversion to corruption. Stakeholders in the organization should feel that they are being consulted and their needs acknowledged if not always perfectly addressed. When confronted with a challenge or scandal, the organization should respond with alacrity and a respect for due process.
I bring this up because, right now, FIFA is the exact opposite of this ideal type.
The Financial Times' Roger Blitz and Stanley Pignal report on the mockery of global governance that is currently known as FIFA:
Fifa has become “unstable,” Sepp Blatter admitted as the president addressed the governing body’s annual Congress in the teeth of pressure for reform from several fronts and demands that the election to secure his fourth term of office be postponed.
The biggest pressure was brought to bear from the World Cup sponsors. Four of the biggest sponsors – Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa and Emirates Airlines – have now gone public, calling on Fifa to act swiftly to restore its damaged reputation in the face of the bribery allegations that have sparked an internecine struggle between the governing body’s most powerful figures.
The European Commission, which has a say in how Fifa’s European TV rights are awarded, also made clear its displeasure in a thinly veiled attack on Mr Blatter.
Androulla Vassiliou, the commissioner responsible for sport, said: “The situation at Fifa is a concern for many of us and I have confidence that the current issues will be thoroughly investigated and resolved as soon as possible.
“Football and sport in general need good leadership and governance, above suspicion and firmly rooted in accountability and transparency.”
Mr Blatter, in a sombre address to the 208-member Congress, said: “”I thought that we were living in a world of fair play, respect and discipline ... I must unfortunately say this is not the case."
Dude, when the European Union is lecturing you on how to govern, you know you're in trouble.
So, corporate and state sponsors ticked off - check. Well, surely, FIFA will respond by sacking those responsible and getting off to a fresh start, right? Hey, what's this ESPN story saying?
Sepp Blatter was poised for re-election as FIFA president Wednesday, calling himself the "captain of the ship" and promising to enact "radical" reforms to tackle the corruption scandals that have engulfed soccer's governing body.
Blatter vowed to give more power to the 208 national federations at the expense of the 24-man executive committee by allowing them to pick the host of the World Cup from now on....
Blatter said the worst scandal in the body's history could be solved within FIFA itself and with him in charge.
"Reforms will be made and not just touchups but radical decisions," Blatter said in his speech to the 208 delegations attending the congress....
"We have made mistakes, but we will draw our conclusions," Blatter said.
Blatter was heeding the advice of IOC president Jacques Rogge, who told him on the eve of the election that only drastic measures to improve democracy and transparency had saved the Olympic movement when it faced a similar corruption scandal in the run-up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
Blatter said he would work to make sure the World Cup would in the future be picked in a vote by all federations instead of the two dozen executive committee members, several of whom have been involved in bribery scandals.
A few thoughts. First, what kind of election process is it when the scandal-beseiged incumbent is the only friggin' candidate? Bear in mind this is the same Sepp Blatter who declared that FIFA was much more transparent than the IOC -- which is kinda like Frederick's of Hollywood claiming that they're classier than Victoria's Secret.
Second, widening the vote to all members won't necessarily stop corruption -- if the International Whaling Commission is any guide, it will simply expand the number of actors who could be bribed.
Third, any anti-corruption campaign depends on Blatter. As Leander Schaerlaeckens blogs over at ESPN, however, Blatter serms to be doing his best Arab strongman impersonation right now:
Through [the crisis], Blatter has maintained that FIFA isn't in crisis, thus denying that he's pushed the organization over the brink of respectability. Amid the firestorm, the tiny septuagenarian Swiss leader has made it clear that FIFA shouldn't play by ordinary rules or be held accountable to anything or anyone.
This was never more obvious than when Blatter got fed up with questions from a hungry pack of journalists in a press conference Monday. "I will not answer this question," he said in response to a question about [CONCACAF president Jack] Warner. "I am the president of FIFA, you cannot question me." When the assembly was rightly outraged, he admonished it for a lack of respect for him and FIFA. And after taking a few more hard questions, he stormed off the stage, citing a lack of respect once more.
If only Blatter had been caught groping a chambermaid -- then there would be some real reform!
So, to sum up: scandal--ridden organization, pissed-off stakeholders, and an out-of-touch megalomaniacal leader who's about to be re-elected.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you FIFA in 2011 -- the only international organization that can make the Iinternational Olympic Committee and European Union look good.
Am I missing anything?
I have a column in the latest issue of Foreign Policy (The Magazine) about some of the unanticipated political, socioeconomic, and cultural effects of the global economic crisis.
Go check it out to read all about better (and more corrupt) governments, evangelicals, the increasingly annoying Interwebs, state schools, Nouriel Roubini's frequent flyer miles, and -- of course -- Playboy centerfolds.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.