Who is afraid of the Chinese government? - Macleans.ca

Who is afraid of the Chinese government?


My column in this week’s Maclean’s magazine (no link yet) is nominally about the contrast between the impotence of shock art in the West versus its all-too-threatening status in China. But mostly it was an excuse to get on the record some facts about the what is, effectively, the kidnapping and detention of the artist Ai Weiwei by the Chinese government.

The government has put forth a  list of reasons for his arrest, including pornography (for this picture), plagiarism, and according to this story in the Guardian today, tax evasion. No one takes these claims seriously; it’s fairly obvious Ai is being persecuted for marrying his art with social activism (especially leading investigations into corruption and a cover-up surrounding the Sichuan earthquake).

Ai’s arrest has raised a great deal of alarm in parts of the West. Among the people or organizations that have expressed public concern and requested his release: The US ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, US state department spokesman Mark Toner, UK foreign secretary William Hague, the EU delegation to China, German foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, and French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero. In addition, Anish Kapoor and Salman Rushdie have expressed their solidarity with Ai.

On April 18th, a group of about 100 members of the Toronto art community took part in the 1001 Chairs demonstration outside the Chinese consulate, and called on the “Prime Minister and our Minister of Foreign Affairs to express concern over the treatment of Ai Weiwei”. To no avail; among those who have said nothing in public: Canada’s ambassador to China David Mulroney, Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, departed DFAIT minister Lawrence Cannon, new DFAIT minister John Baird, and Heritage Minister James Moore. Brock professor of political science Charles Burton has posted a few items on his blog about the Ai Weiwei case.

After 43 days without any contact, Ai’s wife was allowed to visit him for 20 minutes on Monday. Her account of his condition does not sound great. As Burton and others have pointed out, this is not an isolated case: a disturbing number of people have disappeared in China since the Tunisian-inspired “Jasmine” revolution  began a few months ago. Also, Hong Kong street artists who have been stenciling in support of Ai have similarly been arrested.

(Props to Marina Galperina of Animal New York for keeping tabs on this. Cross-posted to my Authenticity Hoax blog.)


Who is afraid of the Chinese government?

  1.  The only reason why we fuss about China and it’s supposed abuses is because they’re eating us for lunch economically.
    We apparently have no problem with this going on in  India….a democracy
    Or this, in the US, another democracy.
    Or this, in Saudi Arabia….a theocracy but also a good buddy.

    • I have a problem with all that and the imprisonment of Ai Weiwei

      • Well, you can have a problem with it all you want, but we aren’t going to change the Chinese govt.

        And more to the point, we might want to clean up our reserves first, before we get all self-righteous about other countries.

        • I give the current chinese regime 20 years – tops 

          • The Chinese civilization has been around for over 5000 years, so your estimate on their survival is meaningless. 

          • ” I give the current chinese regime 20 years …”

            “The Chinese civilization has been around for over 5000 years …”

            “Mandate of Heaven postulates that heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, as defined by the Five Confucian Relationships, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate, leading to the overthrow of that ruler. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best. The mere fact of a leader having been overthrown is itself indication that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven” Wiki

          • That’s nice. Has nothing to do with the discussion, but it’s nice. 

          • wikipedia quotes about dynastic cycle are a little weak

          •  I said regime not civilization

          • The ‘regime’ isn’t going anywhere either….it changes all the time, as different ones come up through the ranks.

            They are doing very well by China, and the Chinese are very proud of it.

            They think differently about things than you do.

            Considering the mess we’re in, for all our fine words, we have no reason whatever to think they’d want our system. 

          • Lee Kuan Yew on Charlie Rose right now. Says Private Capitalism beats State Capitalism hands down – no contest 

          • Also: Tight state control means China will rely on US post secondary institutions for educating chinese students – not possible in China

          • Well of course he would, but that has nothing to do with China.

            I’m sure a great many Americans still believe that too. 

          • He was talking about China 

          • Well I don’t know why he’d be talking about China. Different country, different circumstances and nothing like Singapore

          • Singapore had a large influence on the economic reforms instituted by Deng Xiaoping.

            Interesting and pertinent interview – Yew is not a champion of freedom of speech by any means

          • Deng instituted state capitalism…

          •  Yeah….just about long enough to die of old age. Hahahahaha
            ….and be replaced by more of the same.

          • Exactly. So we have no high horse to climb on. 

          • If it doesnt matter Emily, then why is the regime so afraid of the man?  

          • Nobody is…don’t talk smack. 

          • Then why put him in jail? You are the weakest devil’s advocate ever….ever 

          • China has been around for over 5000 years. In that time, all dissidents have been put in jail ….or worse. 

            The situation doesn’t require any advocate for the devil….sorry.

          • Uhhh, no they didn’t

          • Apparently you know little about China…but you are determined to have a ‘villain’, an ‘evil-doer’, an ‘enemy’.

            Perhaps you should ask yourself why. 

            But do it in private…because I’m not interested.

          • I know a little more than you 

          • Yada, Yada


  2. Check out The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu (just finishing this book) – pretty good stuff 

  3.  Potter – As mentioned before, reading Postrel’s book and she’s brilliant. It is balm for me after watching election a few weeks ago. Anyways, I would argue ChiComs are Statists who are fighting losing battle against the Dynamists. 

    “Our new awareness of how dynamic the world really is has united two types of stasists who would have once been bitter enemies: reactionaries, whose central value is stability, and technocrats whose central value is control. Reactionaries seek to reverse change, restoring the literal or imagined past and holding it in place. A few decades ago, they aimed their criticism at Galbraithean technocracy. Today they attack dynamism, often in alliance with their former adversaries. Technocrats, for their part, promise to manage change, centrally directing “progress” according to a predictable plan.” Postrel, Chap 1, One Best Way

    • China hasn’t been communist for 20 years….and Postrel is a libertarian…a right-wing hippie 

      • And you Emily are a blatant sympathizer of a regime who lacks any semblance of compassion towards its populace and violates a human right every minute.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re one of those hired Chinese internet crawlers who seek out dissent against the motherland and defend its “honour”.  Piss off.

        • Oh give the propaganda crap a rest, and face reality for a change. 

          • She is the Maclean’s Bot for sure – Made in Canada 

          • I realize it’s late, and you’re bored, but making up nonsense just bores everyone. Go to bed. 

          • nah, I am just getting started 

          • No…you’re not.

            Night, dude. 

  4. Hi there! Thank you for that post. Brilliant just brilliant.

    I am actually curating a project in London for Ai Weiwei’s capture-awareness and release. It is called The Chinese Art Project, http://wp.me/p1yUbw-15, and I am looking to do an exhibition using art as a symbol of unique interpretation and freedom of expression. Hopefully I’ll have 25 peices of art to exhibit from 5 unique artists. You’d be so welcome to come! I guess it’s about pulling together and standing for our rights. Especially in an age of social media power. I’ve put a project video plan up here http://www.youtube.com/ChineseWhisperProj it would be great if you could find an outlet to let readers know.

    Many thanks! Keep up the good work.
    Mr Taurus.

    p.s. i’m on twitter: ChineseTwhisper
    p.p.s. I’ve added your blog to my links on the site