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Ai Weiwei And Dissent In China

A crackdown on dissent in China and the latest on detained superstar artist, Ai Weiwei.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses with some seeds from his art installation 'Sunflower Seeds' in London in 2010. (AP)

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei poses with some seeds from his art installation 'Sunflower Seeds' in London in 2010. (AP)

China is in the midst of its biggest crackdown in years on free speech and dissent.

The “jasmine revolutions” in Egypt and Tunisia amazed most of the world; they struck fear into the Chinese Communist Party. What if that model of Twitter-driven human rights-seeking unrest made its way into the streets of China?

In recent weeks, political critics, lawyers, journalists, activists, bloggers, artists have been threatened, detained, arrested and “disappeared” on a remarkable scale.

This hour On Point: we’re looking at the crackdown in China, and the artist Ai Weiwei.

- Tom Ashbrook


Evan Osnos, China correspondent for The New Yorker. Check out his profile of Ai Weiwei.

Alison Klayman, independent filmmaker and freelance journalist. She reported and directed a PBS Frontline episode called Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei? She’s also working on a longer film. You can see more of Ai Weiwei’s art here.

Jerome Cohen, one of the world’s top authorities on China’s legal system and Chinese human rights. He is a professor at New York University School of Law, where he is co-director of the US-Asia Law Institute, and a senior fellow for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations

You can read some of Ai Weiwei’s blog postings in a new book from MIT Press: Ai Weiwei’s Blog:Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants (2006-2009), edited and translated by Lee Ambrozy.

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  • Michael

    Please don’t quote Clinton it only makes us look like hypocrites

  • Michael

    Now remember Saudi A just recently stated it’s pissed the U.S. is supporting pro-democracy in the middle east and it’s that protesting in Saudi A is against sharia law. Nothing even when gates came there to visit.


    “Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,” the Saudi interior ministry statement said.

    It added that police were “authorised by law to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law”.

    The protests in the Eastern Province – where much of the country’s crude oil is sourced – have been demanding the release of prisoners who demonstrators say have been held without trial.

  • Michael

    “For the Saudis, the monarchy is serious about remaining a monarch and not compromising. The Saudis saw an existential threat from the spread of democracy in Bahrain.”

    At the same time, the Saudis are deeply worried about an American administration that has sided with pro-democracy demonstrators against longtime friends. This has deeply strained a historic security arrangement, says Alterman.

    Gates flew to the kingdom Wednesday to reassure the Saudis that the security umbrella is still in place, even if Washington and Riyadh disagree on how to respond to Middle East uprisings.


    I highly doubt the U.S. actually cares what happens to Ai Weiwei

  • Ellen Dibble

    I do understand that dissent is part of the structural strength of a democracy. The more we dispute the more likely the right answers emerge. Mathematically speaking, it’s like biological diversity: you may not know what you’re missing if you start letting certain species die out.
    But I do understand that China’s culture and government have been built on hierarchies or obedience and conformity for millennia. Confucianism, ancestor worship — the current government seems rooted in that tradition, to me. And fomenting dissent is not seen as a positive thing at all. It is likely to derail crucial modalities. So certain kinds of dissent are American imports, sort of like the Chinese fish that are ruining the Great Lakes and its tributaries. The entire ecology is threatened. So I don’t automatically view Chinese dissent the way I do American. There are ways to maneuver within that system that are different. (Right?)
    Actually, I’ve been reading about the rebellion of the musketeers (streltsi) Moscow at the time of Peter (who was in Vienna but soon came back), September 4th, 1698, when rumor (?) had it the tsar’s family was in danger, and these armed troops, WELL stoked with drink stormed the palace. There was mass torture and execution of these musketeers, witness an etching showing everyone at once in a field having their rumps alternately roasted and then beaten, the method du jour, and according to the books resurrected in order to further “interrogate,” except that a kid who had overheard the original planning was caught to be tormented but gladly offered up the details that the drunken perpetrators had clung to in ultimate extremis. The picture wonderfully concentrates the attention, but the more I read the more I realize the sort of dissenters all had been misinformed. The master of the tsar’s household who it seems was being suspected of treason though eventually murdered in the fray was probably what we’d call a conscientious dissenter himself.
    But what a jumpy populace. The guardians of the tsar went way overboard and became the “unrest” by overreacting. And so it went. With Blackberries they could have informed each other that the tsar was alive and well and in his bedchamber.

    • Anonymous

      The Chinese Party is the unrest, as is the democratic and republican party in the USA–backed by billionaire aristocrats who enslave dead peasants. The tea bag party is the unrest–advocating assassinations of congresswomen and progressives, actively destroying legislation or hope of legislation that would protect your right to clean air and water and food. backed by billionaires they deliberately poison your air, water, and food for profit without any regard to your right to life, and waging terrorist wars and torturing Americans and world citizens alike, every word out of their mouth an outrageous absurd lie–that harms people, kills people, gets people killed, and we in the US have the largest incarcerated population in the history of the world, we deny poor people the right to health care–they are worthless if they are poor right?, and we crush dissent and assassinate our own people when they move people to peace and reason and compassion–we murder people for compassion–martin Luther king, Lincoln, JFK, Lennon, Malcolm x, etc –our current political system of billionaire aristocrats is the unrest, same as china. China has a far better record than we do, though completely unacceptable. Time for a general strike and 1 billionaire man march throughout the world. We are at war. The billionaire corporate-aristocracy is against you and will do everything–even kill–to crush you, and make you serfs, beasts of burden with no–absolutely no rights. just listen to the crackpot in west palm beach–the warmonger ta bag who says it takes 5 miles to turn an aircraft carrier around into the wind in order to launch–they’re in for the long haul–they are at war against you, as they dismantle education and privatize and standardize everything–conditioning you, mechanizing you–you cogs in a wheel, you beasts of burden–they don’t want free thinkers, they want drones. obey, obey, obey! bow down to your masters, or feel their biblical wraith. (no coincidence either that most of these US fascists are christian fundamentalists like Allen west who believe the bible is the literal word of god and all other books are the words of Satan. They want to usher in a dark age where dissenters, academia, artists, and independent thinkers are burned at the stake–literally. it will be illegal to go in the street with your good book if they get that where.

  • quest

    The real question is: What if that model of armed unrest and NATO-bombing made its way into the streets of China?

    • Anonymous

      good comment-you will see chaos and destruction. Just as youd o in iraq, afghan, and will see in libya.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It seems to me art must have developed in order to comment/reflect without being offensive. It seems to me art makes a statement without getting arrested. Otherwise you are an activist, not an artist. You can easily cross the boundary, out of frustration or impatience, or lack of faith in one’s art. But Weiwei’s art — there seems to be a fracture?

    • Anonymous

      i disagree with your sentiment wholeheartedly. Art is perspective. What you think is overboard or political, i may see completely different. With your view it would be hard to express yourself at all. Consider books of the past, or any art, their were always certain cultural conventions–always absurd–that prevented the artist form being seen, or understood, and often banned–because it was considered offensive or too political, but today we see as brilliant. Artists are almost never understood in their time. I applaud the ones who are recognized even a little. Art must always be offensive–or else it is hardly art at all. And some people are offended by the smallest pettiest of things. Art is a political act. I think you judge too harshly. Most artists in the past as today–who have wide recognition is because they have government or powerful acceptance–often used or commissioned for propaganda–like much of Hollywood. If you got to Hangzhou in China to the art museum their–a modern city–the paintings are all obviously propaganda–reflecting the greatness of the Party–wen Jen bao and hu jin tao–how they single handedly saved the day in the earthquake of 2008–the painting are great–emotional,w ell done, but its still propaganda, But they are not original in the sense that they are nothing new or extraordinary,a nd they say nothing, they question nothing, they offend nobody.

      Consider Picasso, Faulkner, Mark Twain, Allen Ginsberg, jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Ralph Ellison–they offended everybody, and were mocked, banned, un-published, cursed, etc…

      • Anonymous

        maybe not toni morrison–but she is certainly political,e specially bluest eye

  • Ellen Dibble

    Think of Franz Kafka’s stories about the byzantine crevices of Austrian bureaucracy. It didn’t redirect the authoritarian tendencies of his world, but then he was a sickly Jew, as I recall, and died young. Weiwei is larger than life, an artist with a celebrity’s heft. It is always an issue how to survive with a conscience. That’s a good argument for not living too long. One gets jaded. One checks in for incarceration by doing something illegal. That’s called using your political credit card or something like that, of which he has a plenty large amount.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I’m thinking of an editorial in the local paper on Saturday, a local minister who has been very much in the public eye for the last decade or so, who writes that she withholds a third of her taxes each year and has for 30 years, in protest against American defense spending. She cites the number who are doing that, and points out that the government actually ends up getting more from her this way, because her employers (churches) end up paying her entire salary direct to the government, complete with penalties. But she thinks she wins because of the discussions along the way.
    Here, this “economic” crime is seen as part of the ferment that keeps us sane and strong. It is not seen as in danger of upsetting the whole applecart. In China, even with a strong tradition of maintaining order, Weiwei is seen as a threat. Apparently making less of an issue of it would serve China better. It shows strength.

  • Hsie Wei

    Do you think the arrest is related to the transition of power of CCP from Hu Jin Tau to Xi Jing Ping in 2012? if so, would one expect the tightening of the crackdown in recent days and release of the imprisoned after 2012?

    • Netty

      I think it’s related but I think the incomers are more despotic than those who are leaving…there’s more money at stake than there has ever been.

    • Anonymous

      Why? This is the same old stuff for china. And wouldn’t it suggest the next old fuddy-duddy will be even more iron-fisted, and cruel and less human? He is probably further to the right and making moves to show his strength in the inner circle, and letting everyone know–things will be different under him–he will not hesitate to destroy you, incarcerate you, brutalize you, bash your head in, or kill you…china is moving further to the right–towards cruel fascism as it projects power in the global game, and bullies everyone. China has no respect for the earth, clean air, food, water, health, or people,especially–non-Han people. They have very little respect for life. i know. I see it everyday. They torture animals and see nothing wrong with it. They admit to eating aborted fetuses as medicine for cancer-related diseases and for fertility. They gather around people dying or abused in the streets for the pleasure of seeing them suffer–Chinese have told me face to face that this is the reason of this phenomenon, and famous Chinese writers have written about it for centuries. Instead of helping fellow citizens they get pleasure out of watching them suffer and watch them die in the street without lifting a finger to help. Ive see that too–as i have seen numerous car accidents where people lie dying and nobody cares. The police are little more than thugs and connected to pick-pocket gangs. I have witnessed them stand around and do nothing while mobs of angry families assaulted innocent teachers for their son’s suicide–the angry mob–chained the doors on the school building and beat ignorant innocent teachers, while the police watched, amused. The people in china are as guilty as the government. The few good people who dissent are the ones suffering at the hands of not the government but the majority of the inhumane people of china.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think in this country, if there were a suppression of the names of the children who died in an earthquake, if someone researched that and promoted the dissemination of the information, there would be more and more who start to disseminate it. It would get well nigh impossible to suppress it, and politicians would start to side with dissemination.
    If you have someone who disseminates something suppressed, like Weiwei, and the fact is NOT picked up and furthered, this is different. It’s not about the names. It’s about what Osnos is speaking of, that plenty of Chinese are talking about justice and fairness.
    Is Weiwei leading this? Or is he a collateral damage caused by the fact the police must be edgy about this. It must be inevitable since the internet cannot put up a wall against all dialogue about good governance, fairness, and so on and so forth.

    • Anonymous

      They have no sense of justice or fairness. Their idea of just fairness is whatever serves them best–i know i witness it all the time in countless circumstances. Take for instance, a restaurant. Just about every single male in china smokes like a chimney-everywhere, even while cooking your food. restaurants can become incredibly irritating places to be–like torture. Now many Chinese will agree that if you ask one to distinguish his smoke as he belches toxins in your babies face he will say its none of you business and even become hostile in many cases-depending on his level of education, or upbringing. When the waitress is asked to ask th eother customer to please mind the other customers or respect the well-being of others–the waitress will tell you–NO. Why? because she will say, its not fair to the smoker. the smoker has the right. But guess what the non-smoker doesn’t. is that fair? they will tell you passionately that it is, and you should just keep quiet. They have no idea what fair means, let alone justice. And i’m pretty sure they borrowed these words/concepts form western languages. there was no word for justice, imagination, creativity, fairness, equality, freedom, liberty…and many many more virtues…for some they use a derivative of English.

      Whoever has more guanxi–nepotism and power–determines what is fair and that is fair to all in china–its hard for them to begin to even comprehend anything else. People like weiwei are seen as crazy in the head and belong in looney bins–quite literally. they donot see it as a virtue. I’m talking about so-called educated people. the virtuous do everything in their power to leave china. most people are miserable. there is a palpable cloud of negative energy almost everywhere. its like everything is spiritless. Smiles and laughter are usually at somebody else s expense. i noticed the loners, are usually the smart ones, and often virtuous, but seen as outcasts, reviled, or just strange–they cant relate. They hang on the margins. i have heard the testimony of many of these people, trembling with fear, as they told me. Letters written to me, that i was told i should destroy immediately after reading, only to find the letter rather dull with nothing i could see that could be threatening to anyone. Which means almost everything is a threat. if you are questionable–they will say nothing to your face, but undermine you…

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think in this country, if there were a suppression of the names of the children who died in an earthquake, if someone researched that and promoted the dissemination of the information, there would be more and more who start to disseminate it. It would get well nigh impossible to suppress it, and politicians would start to side with dissemination.
    If you have someone who disseminates something suppressed, like Weiwei, and the fact is NOT picked up and furthered, this is different. It’s not about the names. It’s about what Osnos is speaking of, that plenty of Chinese are talking about justice and fairness.
    Is Weiwei leading this? Or is he a collateral damage caused by the fact the police must be edgy about this. It must be inevitable since the internet cannot put up a wall against all dialogue about good governance, fairness, and so on and so forth.

  • Jeff Z

    I find it hypocritical of Secretary Clinton and the U.S. to criticize China’s human rights while at the same time supporting China’s growing economy. If we really want to show our disapproval then we should consider buycotting the import of Chinese products. We’ve used similar
    tactics for years against Cuba to express our disapproval of their political system.

    • quest

      supporting China’s growing economy? Try the other way around.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Global values?
    Have the Chinese got a bad case of police corruption? Is that it?

  • Dina

    Okay, a little off topic, but how do we find out what music you’ve played during a show? There was a beautiful violin piece earlier. I always appreciate the way the music is tied into the show somehow.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Haven’t the Chinese learned from the experiment in the 1960s and 1970s? I’ve read novels about the kind of brainwashing then.
    If the discrepancies in wealth get foisted on a loss of the lessons from that era, well. Bad.

    • Anonymous

      There are still many people who behave like that. they will tell you that you ‘think wrong’ and tell you to shut up, or report you. the class rooms all have student monitors approved by the party, and most of them are the worst students with connections or wealth or allegiance to the party and well-brainwashed. But still many, just don’t give a hoot about anything. Anyone born after the 89, 90, is called the lost generation because they seem soulless and that they care about absolutely nothing, and are referred to in Chinese as ‘retarded’. This I imagine is largely disseminated by that more socially-conscious generation of the 70′s and 80′s–30-40year olds mentioned in the show. i found that to be one true statement. Again, anyone with social-consciousness keeps their head low, very low, and will often talk to the right foreigners about it if they feel they are receptive, but they are a bit suspect about many foreigners who often have an agenda–they are missionary’s most of them (Catholics, fundamentalists…) and thus have right-wing views about many things–so they probably wont hear form these people. They are too busy shoving the bible down these poor impressionable throats

  • Katieelle56

    This show highlights the Theater of the Absurd of U.S. leaders and talking heads scolding China on human rights. The irony of U.S. political leaders lecturing China’s President Hu on human rights manifested itself on the front page of the New York Times, wherein the article “Obama Raises Rights, Pressing China” (Jan. 20, 2011, A1) was juxtaposed with an article on how the Guantanomo Bay prison “remains open for business,” with said business including indefinite detention without charges and torture (“U.S prepares to Lift Ban on Guantanamo Cases”). To watch Congressional leaders Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and McConnell criticize China on human rights after they have all supported for years the illegal and unprovoked invasion of Iraq that has so far resulted in over a hundred thousand Iraqi deaths and millions of Iraqis left inured or displaced is appalling. Given the U.S. record on human rights this century, it is the height of arrogance to lecture anyone else. It is past time for President Obama and Congressional leaders to acknowledge and focus on rectifying the U.S.’ own horrifying human rights record.

    A further oddity is how people are not seen as having a human right to be free from the death and mayhenm of war. In just the past 50 years a cursory look shows the US murdering MILLIONS of people by invading Vietnam, Chile, Cuba, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Guatemala, Grenada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. Which countries has China invaded in that time period? US leaders and citizens should at least watch Jarecki’s “Why We Fight” before lecturing the rest of the world on human rights.

    • quest

      Good point!

      Yes, one is free to write comments like this. But is one really free to air the same opinions on NPR? How about a whole OnPoint hour on the issue of the “right” to kill all those people?

      Freedom of speech, like any other things like democracy, is a relative concept. You’re only free to speak until it matters.

    • http://twitter.com/Greenuity Norman Buffong

      This apologist rant comes straight from the Red Manual of China’s communist government which brooks no constructive criticism.

      • Stacy

        Not an apologist rant, but simply pointing out double/contradictory standards/practices. China and France may be two of the most arrogant countries on earth, but the US is not far behind. A dose of 1. humility 2. realization that no one state has monopoly defining and practicing human rights 3. we all have something to learn from each other, across the board, might help – in addition to relevant points as contained in this program. But inability to go beyond China-bashing is simply intellectual kiddie-pool splashing. And in case anyone has yet to notice, the “lets get angry and scare them into being like us” approach stopped working loooooong ago.

        • Anonymous

          I dont think this is china bashing at all. what they are saying doesn’t go far enough. the problem is these reporters live her for short periods of time, isolated. Try living here for many years to truly understand why china needs and must be contained or conditioned to start respecting humanity and the earth. I agree however, that America is a hypocrite and a murderous genocidal maniacal terror. The Chinese are willing to learn and hungry for compassion and will reciprocate compassion in an enormous way when taught to love and respect individuals and community. few of them respect either at this point. its sounds harsh, and i have no agenda or master…it simply rings truth

          • Anonymous

            I speak of the people, not the government. the government is just stupid, and whether because of long conditioning or something else–often reflects the view of the people, though many people complain about the gov.–they complain about certain policies, but it doesn’t mean they want to see them removed. I believe most, the young especially have undying devotion to the idea of One china, and the state or the gov as it is. And they will be the storm troopers.

    • Guest

      Which countries did China invade? Let’s see 1949 – Tibet which had acted autonomously in the half century before that. North Korea where they provide the troops, and the Soviets supplied the planes and pilots to support the North’s INVASION of the south. North Vietnam where again they supplied a large fraction of the labor force to work with the North Vietnamese – who invaded South Vietnam. Let’s talk also about one of the top four genocides of the 20th Century : Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot. Don’t be an idiot.

  • Itdosentmatter

    If you really want to support free speech in China [and elsewhere] then actively support free speech there by running TOR on your home computer. It is a fairly easy to set up program that will run in the background on your computer and allow individuals to tweet and communicate where normal government filtering would otherwise block their access.

  • Ehdoss

    I am ashamed that my country finances this regime. We will turn our heads to anything for a buck or a gallon of oil.

    • quest

      Maybe you should be ashamed that “your” country is financed by China.

  • firm

    Ai Weiwei did not design Beijing’s Olympic stadium. In 2001, even before Beijing had been awarded the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, the city held a bidding process to select the best arena design.

    Of the final thirteen evaluated designs, Li Xinggang of China Architecture Design and Research Group (CADG) exhibited a model of the bird’s nest, and this design became official in April of 2003 – fully five years before the Olympics began.

    The innovative structure was designed by Herzog & De Meuron Architekten, Arup Sport and CADG, and was nicknamed the “bird’s nest” due to the web of twisting steel sections that form the roof.

    Ai Weiwei was not involved in any way in the building’s design. He made repeated attempts in 2006 and 2007 to become part of the design team, but without success. The Chinese government did invite him much later to offer his suggestions and opinions to the architects, but it appears his many suggestions were not implemented.

  • Jungblood

    You can vote every once in a while at the ballot box, but remember that everytime you buy something you are voting with your money. Stop buying things that are made in China. Boycott Wal-Mart. Make your voice heard with the only thing that matters in the modern world… with your wallet.

    • Netty

      thanks for this astute comment, I’ve had the same thought myself, that consumer power needs to come to the fore to drive the changes for all of humanity, but people live in a bubble in the rich countries, how do we get the message across?

    • Anonymous

      Best comment here my friend

  • http://twitter.com/Greenuity Norman Buffong

    Tom and guests, many thanks for this instructive show. We global consumers of goods made in China can and MUST devise effective means of applying our collective financial power to pressure China’s brutal ruling autocrats to honor the human rights of its population as required by international laws.

  • http://twitter.com/Greenuity Norman Buffong

    Evidently, China’s non-elected ruling autocrats are becoming increasingly more nervous and paranoid about “preserving domestic social stability”, as they watch fearless, determined mass people power topple and oust long-entrenched, brutally repressive feudal autocratic rulers in North Africa and the Middle East.

    They know that China’s massive population is no less courageous than the people of Tunisia, Egypt or Libya!

    • Anonymous

      not so. i believe the Chinese are sufficiently cowed–they have a very different culture than the middle east. And American ‘leaders’ are not elected either. It’s a corporate revolving door. There is no democracy in America. its an illusion. The sooner we all realize that the sooner we can move onto revolution.

  • design minded

    Echoing the comment posted below by FIRM, Ai Weiwie DID NOT design the Olympic’s “Bird’s Nest” amphitheater. He is listed as an artistic consultant on the project. The Swiss architecture firm, Herzog and DeMeuron, are the architects/designers of record.

    This may seem like a trivial detail in the context of the larger conversation about Mr. Weiwei but as a design practitioner in the architecture profession, my hair stands on end when this already under-appreciated profession isn’t given credit when it’s due.

  • Rlobetz

    So many shows on the injustices in Lybia and China–but not a peep on what happened in Wisconsin where Kathy Nickolaus just “happened” to find an additional 7,500 votes to change the election of the Supreme Court Justice. When are you going to have a show on that?

  • Tibetan Yak

    Chinese people outside should take more responsibility for changing China fundamentally and intellectually rather than try to protect the fake face of current Chinese government.

    • Anonymous

      never happen–living outside of china they still see themselves as Chinese, even if they have American or french citizenship–their loyalty is to China, always. Unless born in America or France, then its starts to waver. There will always be some, but most are extremely nationalistic or extremely apathetic no matter where they live. I think that’s why they have a strange affinity for America.

  • 3li4s

    I called in with the 1st question.

    What I was trying to bring up is the massive wave of apathy that has swept up the 九零后 90s babies. Many of them are too preoccupied with with ciggs, KTV, computer games and cellphones. Its not as if they all have to/ or will suddenly become boisterous activists but very few have a strong grasp on current events in their country let alone international affairs. The CCP stranglehold on media and education system which teaches to and values “critical testing” rather than “critical thinking” are main culprits here. Yet these folks also didn’t see a polarizing activist movement as there was in Beijing 1989.

    Evan Osnos made a good counter-point against making “generalizations” but it is largely the elites and those who have studied abroad that have some grasp on democracy, human rights activism and so forth. We do see them discussing gov’t corruption and equality and concepts of “fairness. The “My Father is Li Gang” incident 我爸是李刚 really stormed the internet and got people talking about ubiquitous CCP corruption. So although it is easy to focus on the gloom, (the smog doesn’t help) there are fragments of a left brewing.

    • Anonymous

      htere passion is fleeting and easily distracted by chatting about drivel on the internet,phone, and ktv as you said. i dont think you can say there is any kind of ‘left’ brewing. i doubt very much there is any kind of organization or movement and wont be for at least a generation and by then it wont matter–they might even penetrte the gov, but most wil be assimilated and the authoritarianism will never ever go–it might just get alittle more benovolent form time to time. 5000 years of conformity and totalitarian culure, as they are proud of saying, prevents radical changes in the social paradigm or any kind of real democracy. Democracy comes from centuries of philosophy and academic thought which they simply dont have, not in analytical ways. It also requires a certain sense of person-hood and of a social contract which they cant fathom, not in the way that a democracy demands

  • Stacy

    Full agreement with everything stated about the treatment of artist Ai Weiwei. Yet too often we speak as if we / our system is the moral/ethical center, and China is a large brute on the periphery that needs to come closer to ‘our way’. While there is *some* validity in the ‘Asian way’ argument, I feel much more important is that the civil-political rights that we stress are half of the equation; China has been extremely successful in the sphere of social-economic rights (lifting 400 million out of misery over last 20 years), and can rightly criticize the US for a system that fundamentally pushes the ‘bottom’ down (and has yet to ratify the UN convention on socio-economic rights). This is not an argument that each should clean his own house before criticizing others; it is a plea for more intellectual depth when discussing China, and that each has much to learn from the other.

  • Rushour1

    Want to know more about a real but different Ai Wewei, here it is by a Chinese, more convincing than any foreign reporters wo actuall know a sht about China:


    • Chris Tucker

      Have you they paid you your 50 cents today?

    • Anonymous

      how can you be more convincing–what authority do you possess? certainly not an open educational system or debate. relying on gov. propaganda doesn’t make one more convincing.

    • Anonymous

      Rushhour1–you cant be serios–you actually believe this propaganda–i went to our link–its nonsense and so transparent. it writes: “To hear the New York Times tell it, “Ai Weiwei Takes Role of China’s Conscience”. We could legitimately ask if Bradley Manning or Julian Assange are taking the role of “America’s conscience”, but perhaps we’ll leave that one for another time.”

      No–lets talk about–yes–yes these people are our conscious and Americans everywhere and people all over the world are demanding their release and see them as heroes–they do speak for America–real America–not the government. you should know that the government does not always reflect the people, whether in china or America–they are not the same, but you obviously cant see that. But we in the west are not afraid of admitting that yes–we have flaws and we a heroic soul that seeks truth and change–but not so in china in china you don’t have the right to use your mind. whats the difference between human and cattle if your mind is not used and controlled. In the west we know we have government lies and propaganda and we fight actively and maybe nothing happens but at least for the most part we wont be brutalized of it. So don’t rock the boat, make sure you obey the Party and mooo!

      • Anonymous

        and too say he was bitter is a tactic always used by the Chinese anti-human dictators, and all dictators–tyrants. Anyone who dissents in china is called bitter or crazy. Yeah wahtever. because they have a brain and a heart you think they are crazy and bitter–well, that says a lot about the Party–it says they have no empathy, no compassion, no reason, no sense, no justice, no fairness, no humanity…

    • murgen21

      Disgusting. Even if everything in the article of blatant propaganda you linked is true, you’re still left with a man who is in prison for criticizing his government or at worst, if we believe the article, his country. That’s it. That’s his crime. For that the Chinese government thinks he should be in jail. Pathetic.

  • Santina Amato

    Show your support for this artist and freedom of speech by changing your Facebook profile picture into one of Ai Weiwei until he is released. Follow this link and share it with your Facebook friends;


    • Ailsamail2

      Why don’t you just mind you own business? Chinese, including Ai Weiwei, doesn’t need you people to support, unless he is not Chinese at all.

  • Potter

    Thank your for this show. Jerome Cohen was particularly good.

  • Anonymous

    china is really stupid. If you want to stop unrest you don’t brutalize people, disappear them or even try to shut them down–that will only make it visible and make people angry–they inflate the problem–and it will be, as Chinese history shows, the regimes downfall. Instead of brutalizing people, it would make more sense to hear these people out (keep in mind, these people don’t do much protest or dissent tat all–the gov. is just paranoid). Embrace them and thy will preserve the regime. Do as USA does-bribe everybody, manipulate, and threaten family economically–the USA is the master at that.

    A colleague of mine once tried to donate clothes to cleaners (the cleaners were all smiles and grateful) and the Party stopped her and said she could not do that-it is forbidden! They said only the Party can do that. But then they didn’t. The problem is they are mostly idiots–they have positions of power because they were not good students, but have guanxi–connections, relationships. Most people in any position of authority everywhere is incompetent and unqualified, uneducated and hostile (insecure) because of it…

    • YourAreBullshit

      watch out your language, dont state anything that you dont know the reality.

      • Anonymous

        Who are you to tell me to “watch my language” what the hell is that
        supposed to mean?–is that like ‘saying I think wrong?’–I suppose you
        think the right way? woaw! man the cultural revolution is over now–stop
        trying to tell people how to think–open your mind. i dont know what you
        think is bullshit?–everything i say is the truth as i observe it and I
        learn in my interactions. Don’t you think it’s a little ironic that you
        tell me to watch my language as you write ‘bullhshit’. I didn’t swear,
        you did. That’s like beating your kids for hitting another kid and while
        you beat them –tell them-’dont ever hit people’ Well, I guess that’s
        Chinese CCP logic for you. make suggestion to you is–evolve. Your way
        is not the only way–the party does not have all the answers, and could
        use help (from citizens)–oh that’s right–there are no citizens in
        China. You ant be a citizen if you cant participate. if you are not
        inner party–you dont know crap about weiwei–you believe like a god
        anything your corrupt tyrannical thug-like mafia-like anti-human,
        anti-law, lawless, men of one book in the party want you to think–you
        are a slave–in the mind. I’ve heard all the ridiculous excuses you can
        throw at me, so just talk straight–i dont want all that propaganda that
        determines every thought you have. Power is not everything. But that’s
        all your government cares about. I will not watch my language–you will
        NOt tell me how to think–dictator–i use my brain and you or anybody
        else is not going to tell me how to use it. You are not my master. You
        master no one. The CCCp is pathetic and brutal and will be greatly
        responsible for the rape of the planet and destruction of quality of
        life on planet earth. Chinese have no sense of community–just look at
        how they live in their trash with no respect for neighbors. Just look at
        how the Chinese leave people to die in the streets and gather to watch
        crime for entertainment while the victim suffers in public–and nobody
        helps. I see it all the time. And its written in Chinese
        literature–much of it–censored by your Party–government. If you dont
        want somebody to build a house–take away the hammer, then take away the
        nails, or better yet–take away all the bricks and mortar and wood and
        tools. You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get
        people to stop reading them…that’s what the CCCP does. Th Chinese
        government is a fraud.

        Go online–more than half the internet is blocked–anything to do with
        thought, literature, philosophy, politics–the only thing you got on the
        net is bullshit, propaganda, pop bimbos, etc. Almost everything i look
        up is -404. Harmless art and literature. Why exactly do you Chinese hate
        art, literature, and thinking? By censoring this stuff–like the way you
        censor people and restrict their participation in society in their
        life–everything that gives it meaning–you only make China slow and
        stupid, uncreative, un-innovative, and unable to meet adversity,
        especially on a global stage. You have a billion great minds–and you
        try to choke and drown them instead of embracing their thoughts and
        their creativity–you stifle your country. That is stupid. Instead of
        calling everyone bullshit and crazy or bitter–try hearing what they
        have to say. All government is experimental–let the people get
        involved. The reason why China has always been a failure is because you
        try to control people instead of embracing them. Emancipate your mind
        dude–or doesn’t hu jin tao’s words mean anything to you–oh yeah why
        should they–you have never been taught how to think imaginatively. Exam
        cultures build drones and clones and robots–not emotional well-rounded
        human-beings–but that’s not what you want–you just want slaves. And
        just because somebody is bitter, doesnt mean they dont have something
        good to say or do–but it sounds like you are bitter, the gov. is
        bitter, not weiwei–by reducing everyone who thinks or acts for china or
        dissents as ‘bitter’ or ‘crazy’ you treat them like children who dont
        know any better–and that makes people resentful–because they can see
        through your childish behavior and your stupidity. All patriots and
        nationalists are naive ignorant dumb children–no matter what age, or

    • YourAreBullshit

      watch out your language, dont state anything that you dont know the reality.

    • YourAreBullshit

      watch out your language, dont state anything that you dont know the reality.

  • Anthony

    I hear a lot of the descriptions of the Chinese legal and political system and I note similarities between the United States. It’s difficult for me to criticize China when so many American’s are accepting of our legal and political realities. I imagine a story about America on Chinese radio would play very similarly, and would contain equal truth.

  • Tibetan Yak

    Is China going to build a “mafia state” after they arrested these intellectuals: political critics, lawyers, journalists, activists, bloggers and artists ????

    • YourAreBullshit

      Is America going to build a “democratic dictatorship” after they arrested these innocents, attacked other countries, waterboarded people and humilated other countries’ citizens and called it “peace keeping”?

  • Ailsamail2

    I PERSONALLY like China as a police state. And I know there is huge amount of chinese suffering from it, while another huge amount of chinese like it. So what? If any of you american are bored, you’re welcome to put your finger on Chinese issue, but don’t expect Chinese would give a shxxt about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Roland-Juergen/100001721061621 Roland Juergen

    wei wei a good guy is just supplying the democratic revolutionary spirit before china is the next demokratic country selling hamburgers and gene simmons dark shadow glasses and 4 head programming . i though ai was more knowledeable. he pay his price whne he meets schwarzenegger and sandra bernhard.
    they where nice to me …………….lol

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