It's not clear that the Obama administration has its head screwed on straight when it comes to human rights questions. Remember that the State Department, in its report to the United Nations on the U.S. human rights record, cited the Arizona immigration law as an example of our failure to set a good example to the world.
Yes, China has made great strides in economic development (entirely by permitting free markets to function, Obama might have added), but the Nobel Peace Prize reminds us that the way a nation treats its own citizens is usually a good predictor of the way it will behave internationally. The Obama administration's soft approach has done nothing to diminish China's crucial support for the most dangerous and unstable regimes in the world.
Chinese assistance against North Korea and Iran has proved illusory. Besides, the pathetic reality is that the Obama administration has no plans to be tough with Iran or North Korea, so Chinese cooperation is largely irrelevant. But in any case, the larger goal of U.S. foreign policy should always be to support and extend freedom. It is obviously in the interests of 1.3 billion Chinese that Liu Xiaobo and his Charter 08 organization succeed. (It is modeled on the Czech Charter 77 that successfully undermined the communist government there.)
When Liu was informed of the prize, he said, "This is for the lost souls of June 4," referring to the hundreds mowed down by the Chinese government in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
But it is ultimately in the interests of the United States that Liu succeed as well. If China were to throw off its oppressive regime, Chinese support for the criminal regimes in Tehran and Pyongyang, along with other crimes around the world, would almost certainly come to an end. The Nobel Committee has just sped that most desirable day.
As for last year's Nobel laureate, he is busy protecting us from the state of Arizona.