Netizen Thoughts on Ai Weiwei

Since we translate Ai so frequently, and since there’s been such discussion about him in the comments as of late, we thought it might be useful to offer a little perspective. For comparison, we’ll translate the some of the comments on Ai’s blog as well as some of the comments on an Anti-CNN post. Both commenters are responding to Ai’s recent essay, “All That’s Left is a Grass Mud Horse.” (Click that link if you haven’t read our translation of it already).

Knowing the (very different) demographics that populate those sites, you would think the comments would be polar opposites, but they aren’t always. In amongst the yelling is some really fascinating stuff. We’ve also translated some of the yelling.

Comments from Ai Weiwei’s blog

Well said!

What should we do so that the Grass Mud Horses can finally defeat the River Crabs?

There is not a single untrue sentence in this essay! Since people became civilized, who has ever seen this kind of government? Are these things that humans do?

Old Mr. Ai, it’s time. First, I learned that “making art” was nonsense. Then I learned that writing essays was even more useless. In this hoodlum country, “art” and “writing” are powerless to shake the system. So: the best way to deal with hoodlums is through force.
Deal with them one by one, all people must go into battle, then there will be hope for this country.

We definitely must go to Tiananmen and demand the Party reorganize into the old imperial system, this will make “managing” and “harmonizing” more convenient.
Demand the Party reorganize into the old imperial system!
Demand the Party reorganize into the old imperial system!
Demand the Party reorganize into the old imperial system!

Once we’ve got the Green Dam, even the Grass Mud Horses will be gone.

Old society accommodated Lu Xun, can’t new society accommodate an Ai Weiwei?

Strongly support!

If you don’t “ding” [support, “up”] this, then you’re anti-China.

In China we’re always confusing “anti-Party” and “anti-China”.

Correct! Correct! Grass Mud Horse Party [i.e., f*ck your mother, Party]

Comments from Anti-CNN

This Ai Weiwei really is a stupid cunt. Using this same pattern, you could totally write an essay about America. It’s just taking a bunch of negative problems and saying them all at once, try asking if there’s a perfect society [out there]! Aren’t there problems in America?
Simply impervious to reason!

I’m ashamed on behalf of Ai Weiwei.

If these are Ai Weiwei’s original words, I express my extreme anger!

We must not vacillate, must not be sluggish, must not toss and turn! We must unflinchingly push forward the reforms and opening up, unflinchingly move down the road towards socialism with Chinese characteristics, only then can we victoriously realize this great blueprint [and] outline for struggle!

“Anti-Party anti-China, loving the UK and worshipping America, betraying the people’s position”! Traitor! Running dog! Cruel and evil.

The essence of Western education and the sorrow of the Chinese people. If you’ve lost the Chinese national spirit, are you still a person?

There’s no way [to change], the world is dangerous like that. I invite Mr. Ai Weiwei to move to Pluto to construct his perfect society.

Yes, this while this person’s words are the worst sort of treason, they’re also all true.

I ask that the original poster please not post such disgusting stuff as this in the future, thanks.

That Chinese society can accommodate a person such as this proves our society has already improved. Those of you perverts flaunting how “correct” and “red” you are, do you want China to return to the days when people were punished for things they said?

[In response to the above comment] What you said makes sense. But I think our country isn’t necessarily accommodating him, he has protection — is it a Green Card or is he an American citizen?

This is an evildoer. That he exists is proof that we’re in his so-called “troubled times”, ha ha…

[In response to the above comment] Trouble times I agree with. As for calling him an evildoer, it would be better to call you a demon. There is not even a tiny bubble of the courage to resist power within you.

Of course, you have the courage to oppose America. It’s just like the old soviet joke:

American: In front of the White House, we dare to curse our President!
Soviet: In front of the Kremlin, we dare to curse your President!

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0 thoughts on “Netizen Thoughts on Ai Weiwei”

  1. As much as I support Ai Weiwei, I think the real good news is the divergence we read here, China does not follow the fate of Russia and North Korea because of them.

    It actully all comes down to how we view what is noble and what is shame, Ai unfortunately fall into both categories for these who comment him

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  2. This may be off topic, but China’s equivalent of rightist wingnuts (who strangely call themselves leftists and reddists), who go to websites like anti-cnn or qiangguo, are the meekest in world history. No Nazi-ish parade, no killing abortion doctors, no shooting at Holocaust museums, no telling an ethnic minority member to change the way they pronounce their names like what happened to Sotomayor (who surprisingly looks like one of my aunts…). Even the Japanese rightists have regular provocative demonstrations in front of the Yasukuni shrine. The only thing they do is venting their anger and frustration online. That’s reason I’m not worried.

    Back to the topic, I’m more interested in how people at anti-cnn view Deng Yujiao and duomaomao. As far as I can tell, the vast majority also support Deng and the underdogs in a series of cases of domestic social injustice against corrupt government officials, which is the second reason I’m not worried about how they curse Ai

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  3. @ wooddoo,

    Great points. I think Chinese nationalists are ready to be critical of the government on issues like corruption, violence against ordinary people, poor labor conditions, etc. But they won’t be critical at all if a certain problem is seen as having become an issue in relations between China and the world. In other words, their immediate reaction is sympathy with the poor and mistreated—as long as that value doesn’t clash with a knee-jerk defensiveness about their country.

    In a sense, then, for all its right wing rhetoric, the Anti-CNN crowd still carries a kernel of the left in it, maybe not enough to be legitimately called “leftists” as it is often called, but there’s something there….

    I find this encouraging. Surely, people can’t be defensive forever. But there will always be problems to solve at home.

    In contrast, America’s rightist wingnuts glorify a certain cruelty of attitude toward those in unfortunate circumstances, especially but by no means exclusively when foreigners have an opinion about the issue at hand.

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  4. 1) Wooddoo, am I one of the meekest you talked about ?

    In case you dont know, Stalin was voted the third most popular russian in russian history by russian people; In case you didnt notice, American people never care that JFK was an unfaithful husband; do you think British people would care Winston Churchill once tried to use posion gas ?

    Well, for the same reason, some chinese showed up on anti-cnn, they want to show their support to a government that makes them proud of being a chinese.

    2) Custer, your post pretty much proved that people only listen to what they want to hear.

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  5. @ Wahaha,

    You’re right that people often listen to what they want to hear.

    The point of your examples, as I understand them, is that all nations sugarcoat leaders they like. Fair enough. But I’m not sure that I agree with what (I think) you’re inferring, namely that everything comes down to perceptions and national feelings and that real policies don’t matter.

    The fact that the British don’t pay attention to Churchill’s abuses doesn’t mean that those abuses didn’t happen. Some Americans are still upset about JFK’s infidelities (though they are a minority)—others, like myself, think his mistakes on Vietnam and the Bay of Pigs are more significant. Many more could care less. But does it matter whether others care less or are upset or aren’t upset, other than in studies of national amnesia or touchiness?

    Anyway, back to Ai Weiwei… it’s something what a black and white response he gets from both sides, aside from the dissenting voices on Anti-CNN.com that Custer highlighted.

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  6. To Wahaha,

    Don’t make me an enemy because you read one of my comments. I know you don’t have time to go through all my comments, but for your information, I criticize real leftists (the right in China’s context) far more often than rightists (the left in China’s context, those at anti-cnn, or fenqing). But that doesn’t mean I’m pro-fq or more anti-jingying. I criticize China’s elites because they have more power of public discourse, most notably intellectual elites. (It’s strange actually because I’m among the best educated in the country and I work with intellectual elites.) Because they have more power, I need to be harsher to them. If the fq’s were stronger I’d turn my gun towards them too.

    And I’m not wrong. China’s fq’s really are the meekest in human history. I wasn’t making criticism. Repress your knee-jerk reaction for two seconds and think about it. By “meek” I mean no real actions. As I said, even the Japanese rightists hold Facism parades every now and then. Nationalists or even neo-Nazis in other countries form parties and participate in politics! I’d like to see a fq party to balance the power now held by my jingying colleagues. But where is it?

    And you didn’t understand what I and Old Tales Retold said. We see very good signs among those at anti-cnn when it comes to domestic injustice where national pride is NOT an issue, so your rebuttal with the moustache, Vietnam-hating little white face and morbidly obese Brit completely missed the mark. But on another parallel where China interacts with the world when the national pride does come into play, I didn’t say anything but Old Tales Retold did (and I agree with him).

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  7. Wooddoo,

    Once a Chinese asked a German journalist why german media kept saying bad things about China. The journalist told the chinese if he wanted to hear “nice talk” about China, he should read China daily.

    When it is about democracy, 99.9% people dont even dare to question that. I want to talk about the flaws in democratic system which I believe has seriously hurt United states, and is a bad prescription for China. I hope both Americans and Chinese can see the flaws. ( I once told Gordon Chang that the only way to solve the crisis in US was 5% communism.) It has made me a knee-jerk, right ?

    But that doesnt mean I like everything in China, but I dont like people like Ai weiwei who in my opinion have their own agenda; I dont like the talks by people who china-lize the problems in China; I dont like people who complain about the taste of soup in a fine restaurant but cant name a restaurant that serve better dinner. To my understanding, Action = find solution, and when you try to find a solution, please remember, YOU DONT WANT TO SOLVE A PROBLEM BUT CREATE A BIGGER PROBLEM AT SAME TIME. That is the way a intelligent person thinks.

    So will you specify THE ACTION you talk about ? I have seen plenty of “give me the f#$%ing money” actions in west, and I dont want to see the actions by scumbags in US or in China (some of them called out by Obama as “use taxpayer’s money in Las Vegas”). I am not a politician, I am not a political scentist, I dont know how to set up a system under which responsible people are given the right they deserve, and irresponsible people are repressed. Or if such system exists.

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  8. @ Wahaha: Again, I’m curious: what “agenda” does Ai Weiwei have in trying to research and publish the names and schools of all the students who died on 5.12?

    @ Wooddoo: Good point. As for Deng Yujiao, I did notice a topic about her while I was browsing and, as I recall, there were plenty of people there on her side, but I’d have to go back and check.

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  9. @ Wahaha,

    I would go further than you—-America needs more than 5 percent communism! Economically, not politically, that is.

    It seems that both of us are upset about some of the same problems in our societies, such as corruption (I understand your Vegas comment to be about corruption—correct me if I’m wrong). But we blame the problems on different phenomena: you blame too much popular input, while I blame too little. So be it. It doesn’t seem that we will ever convince the other.

    But I think there’s another level to this. For you, the contrast always seems to be between China and the US / Europe, with India sometimes thrown in as an example of the dangers of China following US / European advice. Why this binary? “Democracy” has a good deal more variety than you give it credit for, and its successes and failures vary considerably from country to country and continent to continent, as do the successes and failures of authoritarianism.

    Do Zimbabwe’s or the DPRK’s failures have lessons to teach China? Maybe, but they shouldn’t all be thrown together just because they are authoritarian. Is Sweden’s social system exactly the same as America’s? No. Are they both democracies? Yes. So…

    Dealing with artists in a strict binary–“pro-China” and “anti-China” or “pro-West” and “ant-West”—takes your reductive approach to the extreme.

    Interestingly, while you condemn him for ulterior motives and for raining on the party, Ai Weiwei seems to going in the opposite direction, not of just saying black when you say white, but of dealing with the complexities of loyalty in many of his pieces and his activism: giving the finger to famous places around the world including in his own country, trying to bring random Chinese people together in an ideal community through his Documenta piece, helping create a national monument of sorts for the Olympics but then criticizing the Olympics hoopla, holding up the search for truth in Sichuan as a higher form of patriotism than national face, etc.

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  10. OTR,

    About authoritarian system, I gave a full explanation in fool mountain about what is the difference between the system in China and most other authoritarian systems in the world, and why the system in China works ECONOMICALLY.

    Yes, I blame most on popular input, or THE “people” which is used in almost every sentence when talking about political system. Allow me to use an example to explain :

    if you visited shopping mall during holiday shopping seasons before, you know that when near closing time, those shoe stores and clothes stores are always in complete mess like a bed on which a couple just made love.

    That is, very unfortunately, how people act when they dont have to be responsible. Not saying most of them are irresponsible, but if one is irresponsible, there will be two irresponsible, then there will be four irresponsible, and so on. In democratic system, people will not be held responsible for their wrongdoing; in authoritarian system, government is not held responsible for its wrongdoing. Neither of them is good.

    Also the phase “people’s opinion” is used in every sentence about political system. The fact is : if most ordinary people are capable of thinking critically, there would be no politics. If most ordinary people were capable of thinking critically, Hilter wouldnt be elected by German people; there wouldnt be culture revolution; and there wouldnt be the current economic crisis.

    I think you get what I mean, I wont go any futher.

    I deeply appreciate your post, it makes me feel much better. I have been called out (you know the words) cuz of my criticism on democracy and my “party lines”. Thank you very much.

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  11. As about Ai weiwei, I have given the reaon why I think he is a scumbag : he didnt bash until the ” perfect ” time, and the first one he talked to is a famous anti-china magazine in Germany. Assume he is not a psycho, a normal person wouldve written and pleaded to the correspondent government office FIRST, that is why I believe he was looking for attention.

    This is not mathematics, I cant prove it 100%. I present my case, you people are the jury. Whether you believe it or not, I dont know and I dont have the right to force you accept my call. but with what he did during Olympic and the timing, I simply dont believe he is as “innocent” as in his picture.

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  12. Custer,

    He talked to a german reporter in March last year about Tibet problem. That was the first he cared about human right problem in China, he had never used any other way to show his dissatisfication about the goverment or his concern about human right.

    ***************************************************************
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/02/china.olympicgames2008

    Since the completion of the landmark “Bird’s Nest” stadium, Ai has distanced himself from the state and the Olympics, refusing to attend the opening ceremony and becoming an increasingly outspoken advocate of political reform.
    ***************************************************************

    The timing is unbelievably perfect.

    AND TO MY KNOWLEDGE, HE HAD NEVER BEEN TO TIBET, and the first time he openly talk about human right problems in China, he talked about human right problem in Tibet. (he sure could afford going to Tibet, right ?)

    He is an @$$hole, maybe he is thinking of nobel price ( I am not asking you to agree with me.)

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  13. Right, but again, how do you know he never attempted to anything before? If he HAD attempted to do something before, would you have heard about it? He certainly wasn’t as famous before he got the Bird’s Nest design gig, so maybe it only seems like he started talking about politics after that because that’s when people started listening.

    I don’t actually know, mind you, I’m just saying, you haven’t provided any evidence that he didn’t do this kind of stuff well before the Olympics, and given the tone of what he’s saying, who his father was, etc., I find it hard to believe that he just suddenly became political to glorify himself or whatever. Especially since I don’t really see what he gets out of any of this. It seems like a lot of effort (and danger) just for the slim, slim chance of winning a Nobel peace prize. ..

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  14. @ Wahaha,

    I don’t know whether Ai Weiwei has been to Tibet, either. But I don’t see how this adds to the conversation. Being somewhere can be helpful, but only advances a person’s understanding so much.

    For example, I visited India for a few weeks once. And I left the country with a bunch impressions, ones I tried to round out by reading a bunch of books. But it would be foolish for me to say I understand India as a result of that experience or of those books.

    Should I therefore stay silent about India until I am an “India expert”? No, that would be ridiculous. If we limit ourselves to narrower and narrower areas of expertise, then soon we won’t be particularly well-rounded human beings.

    Ai Weiwei’s seems to get this fact, as demonstrated by the eclecticism of his work—from what is essentially a fact-finding project in Sichuan to performance art to installation art to created communities.

    P.S. I am assuming you have spent a lot of time in India, given that you often bring the country up as an example of failed democracy or failed infrastructure or whatever—by your logic, you shouldn’t mention the country otherwise.

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  15. http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2008/01/we-are-ready-ai-weiwei/

    Thirty years after opening and reform, people cannot help but ask, what on earth has happened in these thirty years? What has not changed? Who is holding onto what? For what purpose? What kind of world is this? What kind of past did we have and what is the reality now? What kind of future are we walking towards?

    ***********************************************************
    http://www.timeout.com/london/timeout-40/features/5690/Time_Out_Beijing_heroes.html

    I’m upset on behalf of my country and its people.

    *********************************************************

    You think a person who talk like that right before a biggest ceremony of his country cares people ?

    and Who the f@#k give him the right to “on behalf of” of China and Chinese ?

    He is an A$$HOLE. There are plenty of A$$holes in America who keep telling the “truth” too.

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  16. I suppose it depends on what “caring” means. Does it mean watching out for a country’s image like a hawk (a nebulous, strange thing to spend a lot of time on) or does it mean caring whether a certain system of government is the best for the country or whether a large number of students’ deaths could have been prevented or whether art in the country brings people together, etc?

    Anyway… to my mind, there’s no objective measure of being an “A$$hole.” Maybe we could create a formula: X number of “critical” opinions near an event of Y importance to a given country’s people whose nationalists rate Z on a scale of how easily their feelings are hurt? But your “A$$hole” may always be someone I admire. You may always think those quotes above are obnoxious and I may always think they are entirely reasonable.

    More generally, and I mean this without the snarky-ness I slipped into above, do you think artists should inspire a unity in their audience or spark debate?

    Like

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