Ai Weiwei Under House Arrest

Apparently, Ai Weiwei has been placed under house arrest for threatening to host a dinner. There is more to it than that, of course — for details see this, this, this, etc. — but I’m more interested in raising a couple of other points here.

It’s not at all surprising that the authorities were freaked out by the ideal of Ai Weiwei throwing a big, sarcastic demolition party and inviting his whole dissident Twitter army. I doubt that even Ai himself expected the event to go off without a hitch.

That said, his movement in the past few years has been relatively free, and, aside from that little knock on the head, authorities seemed content to harass the people around him, leaving him more or less alone. Undoubtedly, his international fame had something to do with it. Authorities have understandably been hesitant to directly harass a guy who has most of the foreign correspondents in Beijing on his speed dial. And the fact that he’s also Ai Qing’s son must also have helped. He was, according to some, one of the few people who had gotten big enough that they were more or less free to say what they liked without too much fear of repercussions (another is Han Han, whose magazine has apparently been nixed for good).

Given that, it’s interesting that the police chose to detain Ai himself, instead of allowing him to go to Shanghai and derailing the event by arresting everyone else who showed up. That is a fairly common tactic for them (most recently, the October 8th gatherings celebrating Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize were broken up in this fashion), and it was what I expected when I saw that Ai Weiwei was planning to hold the dinner.

It has been a busy fall for the authorities, what with Liu Xiaobo’s prize, the Party Elders’ letter, and even Premier Wen Jiabao’s comments about political reform to CNN, which someone apparently decided needed to be censored domestically (one hopes the irony of censoring the Premier is not totally lost on whoever pushed the button). Given these things — and the rash of arrests that followed the first one — I wonder if Ai’s house arrest is perhaps another signal of a strategic shift to an even more direct method of enforcement.

Arresting Ai himself is undoubtedly easier than letting him hold the event and then undermining it (although, as Evan Osnos points out, Ai Weiwei is probably making life hell for the poor cops assigned to keep him at home). But it’s also more blunt, and has turned the whole thing into an ongoing news story.

So the question is, is this strategy an indication that the authorities no longer care about making this kind of news, or is it just another example of the government shooting its own foot?

(As a sidenote, whatever the reason for detaining Ai, it doesn’t seem to have worked, reports coming in from Twitter indicate that there are already nearly a thousand people at the “River Crab banquet”. Interested parties can follow periodic updates via milpitas95035 on Twitter.)

Unrelated Announcement

Also, many apologies for the lack of posts recently. I’ve been working on finishing up the first ChinaGeeks Films original documentary! It will likely be another week (at least) before the final product is ready (still need to add subtitles, cutaways, and wait for the narrator to record his bits so I can do the final audio mixing) so the relative dearth of posts may continue until then.

Advertisements

0 thoughts on “Ai Weiwei Under House Arrest”

  1. it’s news like this that makes me think the past decade’s news narrative of ‘china’s rise’ has been some kind of grandiose ruse the whole time. i’m not sure if the gov’t thinks it can redefine what ‘soft power’ actually means in practice, but if it keeps up with this kind of atrocious, wholly avoidable and pointlessly thuggish behavior, that narrative could start morphing and take shape as something along the lines of ‘china: enron the country’.

    Like

  2. @zusya – I’m pretty sure that the government, in the main part, believes it’s own story on this. It’s generally true of any large organisation that those towards the top buy into their own hype. At any rate, the government’s soft power at home is, within certain spheres at least, unchallenged, and this is all they care about.

    China’s rise, though, is not a ruse, but a genuine fact, and covers all spheres including cultural. The fact is that, whilst the present government has done next to nothing in the way of political liberalisation, economic growth has given enough people enough of an improvement in living standards that there is no ground-swell in favour of democratisation.

    It’s also worth saying that, from the CCP’s point of view, this behaviour is not ‘avoidable’, but necessary to maintain their rule in China. A dictatorship (can I call it this? it seems that every term I use for China’s government – communist, totalitarian, authoritarian – provokes vocal criticism from someone) cannot even allow mockery without its power beginning to slip. Look at the name of this party of Ai Weiwei’s – a joke made at the expense of the CCP’s core message to the people, one which has neutralised that message for at least those who are in on it.

    The really stupid thing though, is that Ai Weiwei has become a well-known enough figure both inside and outside China (unlike Liu Xiaobo), famous for something other than mere dissent, for his arrest to cause a degree of harm to the CCP image that goes beyond the mere drum-beat of suppressing dissent. Ai Weiwei recently made headlines here in the UK for his display at the Tate Modern art gallery, and if people did not know him from that, they would know him for his work on the Bird’s Nest – he is not merely someone known for being a dissident.

    Like

  3. @foarp

    by ‘avoidable’ i’m generally referring to what an atrocious tear china’s PR complex has been on lately. these days, the gov’t doesn’t seem so much interested in achieving the best possible outcome, just whichever course of action demonstrates some kind of illusory steely resolve.

    and i think you’re completely right about actions like these being essential to maintaining rule, which is kind of what prompted my comment in the first place.

    i can’t pretend to know with accuracy what transpires out on that lake in zhongnanhai, it’s just always sort of amuses me, how the CCP seems to keep ringing all its bells at the rest of the world, expecting angel wings to sprout out from somewhere.

    w/r/t to his status as dissident, isn’t ai weiwei on record as saying how much the gov’t is fond of him?

    Like

  4. @zusya

    Yeah that quote pretty much sums it up. If they had just let him do it, most people probably wouldn’t even know. Now the news is on CNN.

    Like

  5. As detailed in the GT link, “some government official” was Sun Jiwei, the head of Jiading District (the NYTimes article mentions him, but not by name; other “western media” reports likewise make reference to the permit issue). Sun was one of the main motivators behind the “culture & communication industry district” project. Not only did he personally appeal to Ai to locate in the development zone, Ai and other artists were featured in promotional materials, such as this bit from the Jiefang Daily, May 9:

     在建设东方慧谷的同时,马陆镇还试点在大裕村内引进文化产业,目前已逐步退出16家工业企业,引进周春芽、丁乙、艾未未、岳敏君等6位艺术家工作室,农民会所和画家村的规划设计方案也已确定。“文化信息产业”正在改变着马陆的产业结构,也为这一工业镇装上了新的火车头,其带来的集聚效应将在这个小镇逐步体现。

    As Oriental Wisdom Valley was being built, the town of Malu set up a pilot program in Dayu Village to bring in cultural industries. Sixteen industrial enterprises have withdrawn, and studios of six artists, including Zhou Chunya, Ding Yi, Ai Weiwei, and Yue Minjun, have been brought in. Plans are now set for a Farmer’s Club and Artists’ Village. “Cultural & information industries” are changing the industrial structure of Malu. A new engine has been installed in this old industrial town, and its initial effects can now be seen.

    Like

  6. jdmartinsen,

    Did nytimes say explicitly say that that it was going to be demolished because the studio was constructed illegally? No. Sorry, that’s slanted journalism to me.

    Like

  7. @pug_ster: My disagreeable friend, yet again you ignore the actual issue and instead focus on a side issue. Sure, the NYT is biased; I know it, you know it, Presidents Hu and Ao know it… But in this case, what is it that they’re being biased about? That’s right, an artist was 随便ly put under house arrest because of his crab party.

    What if… In five years from now you hosted a big cookout in your backyard, but in 2015 “barbecue” also happened to be homophonic to a sensitive phrase, and then YOU got put under lockdown? Would you say “That’s slanted journalism!” or would you complain about the legality and ethics of the police doing whatever the hell they want?

    Like

  8. @pug_ster

    you’re not making a point anyone else other than you can understand.

    is your point is that the building is illegal because it was ‘constructed illegally’, then why did the local government offer to to convert it into an agricultural museum?

    Ai added that authorities in Shanghai had now suggested he could donate the building to the government, possibly for use as an agricultural museum. He questioned how they could accept an illegal structure. “Of course I don’t want it to be knocked down, but they already announced it was illegal so I don’t see how they can take the sentence back,” he added.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/nov/07/china-artist-ai-weiwei-party-studio)

    and what exactly about the new yorks times article you’re referring to is ‘slanted journalism’?

    Like

  9. “China’s rise, though, is not a ruse, but a genuine fact, and covers all spheres including cultural. ”

    I have to question that chinese culture is rising, outside of the usual self-hating leftists there really isn’t much in the way of interest towards it. In fact the opposite is usually true, many chinese seek to become more western. Often when those kinds of foreigners come and stay for a while, they figure out soon enough why it is that way. China’s net emmigration rates are not just economic, it’s alo because chinese culture has little to offer the world.

    Like

  10. Outcast, I’m sorry but that’s just nonsense to say that Chinese culture has little to offer the world. China has a rich culture in terms of food, music, literature, philosophy and and art which has and will have a big impact on the world. It seems silly to have to even point this obvious fact out.

    Like

  11. pug_ster,

    you clearly don’t know what the word ‘rebuke’ means.

    i apologize for being under the impression i was having a conversation with someone who understood what i was saying.

    best
    -zusya

    Like

  12. This guy AiWeiWei actually started out very well by going after the Chinese government right after the sichuan earth quakes. The message resonated with the Chinese people well because government corruption and abuse of power is one of the most popular topics in Chinese forums. However his follow up efforts were lame (criticizing zhang yimou for trying to make the olympics a great event is not going to get you many fans in China other than the China-bashers) and ineffective.

    For those who genuinely care about China and want to reform China, this would be probably the better approach: to influence by tackling popular issues for the interest of the Chinese people, and then use the Chinese media to broadcast your message. HanHan does this very well in this regard. AiWeiWei has very little influence in China because he doesn’t know how broadcast his voice within China. Instead he aligns himself with the usual anti-China Western MSM and technologies such as Twitter to communicate although these channels have virtually zero reach in China. The more Western media makes him to be hero, the less the average Chinese will associate him to be voice for the later. As he becomes a more polarized figure (thanks to the WEstern MSM which always does a good job at alienating the Chinese moderates) he now looks like yet another puppet of the Western MSM.

    Like

  13. “Outcast, I’m sorry but that’s just nonsense to say that Chinese culture has little to offer the world. China has a rich culture in terms of food, music, literature, philosophy and and art which has and will have a big impact on the world. It seems silly to have to even point this obvious fact out.”

    And where exactly did this “rich culture” lead China to? Centuries of stagnation. That’s one of the things is stands for, stagnation. All of what you list hasn’t changed at all for quite some time. Women are still second class citizens, their government is hopelessly authoritarian, people can’t trust eachother because they always lie to eachother about everything, as narrow as your average american can be chinese are even MORE narrow and small minded, discrimination in all forms is rampant, there has been no major scientific and/or technological achievements (all this tech you’re using now was invented by the supposedly culturally inferior western barbarians), and the list goes on. Is this really a model culture? I dont think so.

    Like

  14. @outcast

    “Centuries of stagnation” is a myth. As Martin Jacques demonstrated in “When China Rules the World”, China roughly kept technical and economic parity with Europe until the beginning of the 19th century (and, arguably, remained superior in some technical fields until the mid to late 19th century). We got the jump on them, but not by much. That, and I question your list. While women may not have achieved Scandinavian-level equality, women have a higher profile in Chinese business than anywhere else in the developing world, and the percentage of female entrepreneurs among China’s super-rich is higher than that of the US. The women I know here are highly empowered and certainly don’t think of themselves as second-class citizens. Chinese don’t seem any more inclined to lie than anyone else- and by far, the worst conmen and liars I’ve met in China have been among the expat community, certainly not the Chinese themselves. While there haven’t been any major scientific or technical achievements in the past century, I have a feeling that will change quickly as they build upon our foundation (as I’ve argued elsewhere, England had no major technological or scientific achievements as of 1000 AD; the Byzantine Greeks and the Chinese were the technical leaders of the time. We built on foundations laid by our predecessors, just as the Chinese are already building on our foundations).

    Not to mention, cultural capital can change quickly. Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate was “stagnant” and closed-off for centuries; it spent the early 20th century seen as a dangerously authoritarian and militant maker of shoddy goods (sound familiar?). Today Japan is technical and cultural power that rivals America in the Pacific Rim- it got there by adopting useful elements of Western culture with it’s own distinctiveness- JUST AS CHINA IS DOING NOW. In other words, watch out.

    “Is this really a model culture? I dont think so.”

    No culture is a model culture- and nobody here is arguing that China is one, certainly not me. But you’d be just as wrong to write them off based on your (highly flawed) view of them circa 2010, as you would have been to write off Japan in 1910.

    Like

  15. ““Centuries of stagnation” is a myth.”

    From the year 1500 until now name one thing that was invented by chinese.

    “We got the jump on them, but not by much.”

    Not by much? Most parts of China are STILL 200 years behind. I’d consider that quite a lot.

    “While women may not have achieved Scandinavian-level equality, women have a higher profile in Chinese business than anywhere else in the developing world, and the percentage of female entrepreneurs among China’s super-rich is higher than that of the US. The women I know here are highly empowered and certainly don’t think of themselves as second-class citizens.”

    Chinese women rarely seek to be successful, they just want to live easily and have the rich life handed to them by marrying into wealth instead of aquiring it for themselves. With few exceptions they are lazy and weak. That the vast majority of them demand that the guy they marry have a house and car speaks volumes as to their social status. Also that many chinese think it is perfectly acceptable to viciously beat a wife or girlfriend who cheats (while nothing usually happens to cheating husbands and boyfriends) says a lot too.

    “Chinese don’t seem any more inclined to lie than anyone else- and by far, the worst conmen and liars I’ve met in China have been among the expat community, certainly not the Chinese themselves. ”

    I guess you never dated a chinese girl then.

    “Today Japan is technical and cultural power that rivals America in the Pacific Rim- it got there by adopting useful elements of Western culture with it’s own distinctiveness- JUST AS CHINA IS DOING NOW. In other words, watch out.”

    Japan is a cultural power? Are you kidding? Do you really have any idea how backwards Japanese culture really is? Here’s an example: In Japan when a women marries, she is STILL expected to quit her job and stay at home for the rest of her life. Even China isn’t this backward. Japan might look formidable on the outside, but in reality they are a dying nation resting on a rotten economy. Japan is in a great many ways a model of failure, they only got where they did by climbing on the backs of the western countries with predatory trade practices, eventually resulting in a collosal price asset bubble which blew up in their faces. Because their total inability to change they’ve had an economy that’s stagnated for 20 years and no signs of that changing. All of that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is wrong with Japan and why it is doomed. Japanese culture never offered the kind of freedom of western culture, and that ultimately is what has lead to their destruction. There’s simply too many undesirable features to make it viable in the modern age.

    “No culture is a model culture- and nobody here is arguing that China is one, certainly not me. But you’d be just as wrong to write them off based on your (highly flawed) view of them circa 2010, as you would have been to write off Japan in 1910.”

    I would have written off Japan in 1910, especially given that despite their usual self assured bluster and arrogance they were merely wannabes, they never approached the industrial capability or military prowess of the similairly sized industrialized european powers (except italy). They were a nuissance to the european colonies in the region, but really only a theat to the even more weak and super backwards hermit kingdoms at the time. I don’t count Russia because like China back then it was a weak, crumbling empire.

    Like

  16. “Chinese women rarely seek to be successful, they just want to live easily and have the rich life handed to them by marrying into wealth instead of aquiring it for themselves. With few exceptions they are lazy and weak. ”

    *sigh*. Half of world’s top 20 richest SELF MADE women are Chinese. But never mind that, what is wrong with wanting to marry into wealth and live an easy life anyway? If you have watched any Korean, Japanese, Indian, US, soap opera/dramas this is typically the common background theme. Even the wealthy usually want to marry into other wealthy families so their lives would be easier.

    Like

  17. “From the year 1500 until now name one thing that was invented by chinese.”

    I’ll make you a list of things they invented before we did, if you like. They didn’t invent much during that time period, but in part they had a perfect storm of problems working against them- mainly an oversupply of labor, lack of access to natural resources in heavily populated areas, and occupation by a reactionary foreign power (the Manchu). Not a good combination.

    (why isn’t this posting, BTW?)

    “Not by much? Most parts of China are STILL 200 years behind. I’d consider that quite a lot.”

    By GDP measures, even most inland provinces are at levels of development comparable to much of the west barely half a century ago. Adjusted for inflation (using year 2000 constant dollars), the PCGDP of the US in 1950 was $11000. The more developed provinces of China and coastal cities are at a comparable or higher level; interior provinces lag, but hardly even one century behind, let alone two.

    “Chinese women rarely seek to be successful, they just want to live easily and have the rich life handed to them by marrying into wealth instead of aquiring it for themselves. With few exceptions they are lazy and weak. That the vast majority of them demand that the guy they marry have a house and car speaks volumes as to their social status. Also that many chinese think it is perfectly acceptable to viciously beat a wife or girlfriend who cheats (while nothing usually happens to cheating husbands and boyfriends) says a lot too.”

    In that case, I’ve known a ton of exceptions to the rule! Most of the Chinese women I hang out with are well-educated, aggressive, and want to build a life for themselves on their own terms. Maybe the majority are lazy and weak, but hey, that’s the majority of people everywhere. I can go back to my American hometown and meet plenty of people like that. As for the last statement, regarding cheating, I’ll ask my officemates about that. I bet we’ll all have a good laugh. Times, they are a changin’.

    “I guess you never dated a chinese girl then.”

    … or you’ve just been dating the wrong ones. 😉

    As for Japan, no, I’m not kidding, and you’d have to be blind not to see it. They’ve come to rival the US in Pacific Rim pop-culture in the last twenty years; their video games, music, TV, movies, and other measures of soft power compete with ours, even making comparatively amazing in-roads in historical enemy nations like China and Korea (which seem like they wouldn’t be responsive to such a Japanese invasion… yet gobble up their products with abandon.) Japanese management techniques are staples of our top business schools and consultancies; Japanese food is increasingly a staple of our diets; Japanese Buddhist sects are among the fastest growing religions in the US; Zen and meditation have gone from exotic foreign practices to mainstream parts of international culture (though other Asian cultures had a hand in that, too). Japan is a cultural superpower from where I’m sitting; while their economy has been stagnant the last twenty years, their average standard of living remains high and their cultural influence has gone from “exotic other” to mainstream contributor. Anyway, your doomsaying is pointless; people make the same judgements regarding the US, Britain, Scandinavia, France, Germany, China, Korea, India, Brazil… well, I can’t think of any country where some massive structural problem can’t be found that ultimately spells their doom. (Funny, though, that we seem to look at things with entirely different measures in mind- you talk about women’s liberties, I’m looking at aggregate media output. Hmm…)

    Likewise, you would have written off Japan, but as I pointed out, that would be your mistake. You see a doomed country with huge problems, I see a place that seems to be doing better than the vast majority of the world. Third largest economy in the world (second until this year), lower GINI coefficient and far lower unemployment than the US, and an aesthetic that Americans and other Asians can’t seem to get enough of… yeah, I’d say they’re doing pretty well, disfunctional politics and social mores aside (and again, I find these things fairly relative- it’s hard to quantify them.)

    Like

  18. “I’ll make you a list of things they invented before we did, if you like. They didn’t invent much during that time period, but in part they had a perfect storm of problems working against them- mainly an oversupply of labor, lack of access to natural resources in heavily populated areas, and occupation by a reactionary foreign power (the Manchu). Not a good combination.”

    I’m not saying they haven’t invented anything before us, I’m saying they haven’t done anything for centuries. Is 500 years not “centuries”?

    “As for the last statement, regarding cheating, I’ll ask my officemates about that. I bet we’ll all have a good laugh. Times, they are a changin’.”

    http://www.chinasmack.com/2009/pictures/unfaithful-fiancee-pregnant-beaten.html

    I think the comments by chinese posters on there says plenty. It’s also worth mentioning that China is the only country in the world where suicide rates are higher for women than for men.

    “In that case, I’ve known a ton of exceptions to the rule! Most of the Chinese women I hang out with are well-educated, aggressive, and want to build a life for themselves on their own terms. Maybe the majority are lazy and weak, but hey, that’s the majority of people everywhere. I can go back to my American hometown and meet plenty of people like that.”

    Please address the issue of the marriage requirement.

    “Japanese management techniques are staples of our top business schools and consultancies;”

    Which doesn’t make much sense because, with very few exceptions, Japan Inc. has been on the decline for quite some time. If you look at semiconductor company (which is supposed to be their strong point) size by sales, in 1989 6 out of the top 10 were Japan, today it is only 3.

    “Japanese food is increasingly a staple of our diets; ”

    For every sushi restaurant there are many more chinese restraunts. So what?

    “Japanese Buddhist sects are among the fastest growing religions in the US; Zen and meditation have gone from exotic foreign practices to mainstream parts of international culture (though other Asian cultures had a hand in that, too).”

    Yeah, replacing one form of superstitious nonsense with another. A lot of that has to do with the pervasive self-hate in modern politically correct western societies.

    “I can’t think of any country where some massive structural problem can’t be found that ultimately spells their doom.”

    So many of Japan’s problems are a direct result of its culture. It pushed back against the feminist tide of the 70’s, it resisted the globalization wave of the 90’s. Why? To preserve it’s “Japanness”. Japanese culture is literally killing Japan, and even though it is clear that there needs to be a major change in the way of thinking in order to survive this century, they would much rather ride off into sunset. Japanese culture simply doesn’t value or appreciate change like western culture does. Compare how western culture was 100 years ago(or even 50 years ago) with today, and then do the same with Japanese culture. Guess not only who changed more but who was the first change to begin with?

    “I see a place that seems to be doing better than the vast majority of the world.”

    Given that they were competing against communism on one hand and messed up african states on another that really isn’t saying much.

    “(Funny, though, that we seem to look at things with entirely different measures in mind- you talk about women’s liberties, I’m looking at aggregate media output. Hmm…)”

    It isn’t enough to just look at media output, what really defines cultural supremacy is things like the kind of quality of life afforded to all of its citizens. In Japan literally half of the population is shut out entirely from having any meaningful contribution to society. Also in Japan, it is demanded that you be exactly the same as everyone else. People who get bullied are always blamed (instead of the people doing the bullying) because it means that they somehow have not conformed enough. No wonder Japan’s suicide rates are the highest in the G7.

    Like

  19. “I’m not saying they haven’t invented anything before us, I’m saying they haven’t done anything for centuries. Is 500 years not “centuries”?”

    You blame it on culture, I’m blaming it on material circumstances and foreign occupation. They were running circles around us during the Ming Dynasty- when they were under Chinese rule. As one man I know once put it, every time the Chinese have truly been under “Chinese” rule (Han, Tang, Ming, post-Deng Xiaoping modern China- I won’t count the Chiang period because they were largely an American satrap, or the Mao period because he was Stalin’s rebellious puppet and they were building their way out of the ruins of both his policies, those of his predecessors, and the slaughter of Japan), they’ve been a world power.

    That, and it’s not true that they didn’t invent anything during the last five hundred years. For one thing, they’d already developed most of the technology needed for the early stages of the industrial revolution during the early Ming, before 1500; their most significant industrial invention under the Qing was the cotton gin, which they beat the US to by a little over a century. This may seem insignificant, but the cotton gin was a major invention of the early stages of American industrialization, and the foundation of many industrial technologies to come after. China had all the technical knowhow necessary for an industrial revolution; it didn’t happen because of the three material constraints I pointed out earlier, not due to any cultural inferiority. If you want to blame a culture, blame the Manchu barbarians.

    As for the ChinaSmack article, you can find anecdotal horror stories anywhere. And anyway, the US is full of guys who would beat their girlfriend if this happened… and plenty of guys who would sympathize. It’s human nature, nothing distinctive about China. Anyway, ChinaSmack’s comments section is about as credible as 4chan or Stormfront in my book as a barometer for what people really think. Nor does it help your case any that the most reasonable commenter in that thread is someone… with a Japanese name.

    The marriage requirement? Again, economics. It’s a way of assuring that your husband isn’t a loser- a lesson more western women should learn from their Chinese peers, and yet another place where I agree with them. My prior girlfriends already owned houses/apartments of their own (and, in one case, a car), yet they wouldn’t marry me unless I could provide the same- I had to be on the same level, but I’m afraid I’m not yet ready to buckle down and buy a house in downtown Shanghai. Heck, we usually split tickets on dates, and they never demanded expensive gifts from me.

    “Which doesn’t make much sense because, with very few exceptions, Japan Inc. has been on the decline for quite some time. If you look at semiconductor company (which is supposed to be their strong point) size by sales, in 1989 6 out of the top 10 were Japan, today it is only 3.”

    They are still (despite the silly Toyota kurfuffle, which was propped up by the US media RIGHT AFTER Washington had nationalized two US auto companies… coincidence? I think not.) world leaders in quality control; Kaizen has been the buzzword among managers for years; Peter Drucker, godfather of the MBA, was deeply influenced by Japanese culture (which comes out in his books)- if he saw something in it, that’s good enough for me.

    The rest of it; well, I’m just aggregating the general influence of Japan (you completely ignored the influence of Japanese music, movies, TV, video games, etc. all of which I see my Chinese and American friends consuming en-masse), which is far greater than most of the world. I’d say that Japanese soft power has much more influence on American culture than contemporary France, Germany or Italy, for instance. I can’t remember the last time I watched a German movie or TV show, or played a German computer game, for instance (oh, yes I can- never). Yet the Japanese are second only to the US in these categories (with Britain as a possible rival in the TV sector). China and India will probably usurp the 2nd and 3rd place roles in both categories, though, soon enough.

    Yup, most of the world would love to be failing like Japan. In fact, Korea, Taiwan and ASEAN seem to be working on doing just that…

    “It isn’t enough to just look at media output, what really defines cultural supremacy is things like the kind of quality of life afforded to all of its citizens. In Japan literally half of the population is shut out entirely from having any meaningful contribution to society. Also in Japan, it is demanded that you be exactly the same as everyone else. People who get bullied are always blamed (instead of the people doing the bullying) because it means that they somehow have not conformed enough. No wonder Japan’s suicide rates are the highest in the G7.”

    Japan’s suicide rates are the highest in the G7 because suicide doesn’t have the cultural stigma it does in Christian/post-Christian societies- it’s seen as an honorable way out; and frankly, like many other points, I agree with them on this. As far as your other points, it seems that Japanese have as much of a countercultural/non-conformist streak as Americans do, and they tend to produce some of the strangest ones around. As for the state of women in Japan, I don’t think it’s at all true that they’re shut out entirely from having a meaningful contribution to society, at least not anymore than women anywhere else- and frankly, it begs the question that Allan Bloom once asked- what contribution have women ever made to civilization, anyway (other than giving birth to men, but that’s hardly an argument for feminism, now is it)? As for Asian bullying, one of the things I love about China is that in three years here I’ve never, not even once, been bullied by a Chinese man (again- another thing I can’t say about the expats here!). I love these guys.

    Like

  20. Is there some half-way expression between a sigh and a yawn which I can make in reaction to the debate on this page? Sawn? Yagh?

    Putz_ster’s moronic hammering on the ‘illegality’ of Ai’s studio, which he had been invited by officials to build. The equally moronic statement by Lolz that Ai is ‘siding’ with the “western media” (by . . . doing what exactly?). In fact Ai is under HOUSE ARREST – that is, not officially under arrest, not officially being charged with anything, merely being kept in one place so that he cannot go to another. The legality or otherwise of his studio has nothing to do with his arrest.

    The discussion about Chinese women is also pretty moronic. Yes, China has gold diggers. No, the women who are most successful in China did not get where they were solely through marriage – is this hard to understand? Actually, as one of the commenters above pointed out, in some ways China’s record on female equality is quite good – especially in comparison to Japan, as I can vouch for personally.

    Finally, yes Chinese people invented a lot, yes, they slowed down in the later half of the last millenium and have only started to catch back up since the fall of the Qing. Why are you even having a debate on this? What is there to discuss?

    Like

  21. FOARP, we’re debating whether or not the causes of the slowdown were due to material factors or an inherent corruption in Chinese culture. I’m arguing the former, outcast is arguing the latter (though for some reason my last post in reply to him didn’t get posted). China slowed down because they had an oversupply of labor that negated the need for a great deal of industry, no ready access to coal in the economic heartland of the Yangzi delta, and a venal non-Chinese occupational government that saw no need for engagement with the outside world. In contrast, when one looks through the historical record, China’s technical advances generally took place in a kind of punctuated equilibrium- that is, punctuated by periods of flowering and periods of stagnation. The periods of flowering- roughly 200 BC-200 AD, 600-900 AD, and 1300-1600 AD, however, always had two things in common- all of “China” was united under a powerful central government- and that government was distinctly Han Chinese, not a foreign tribe or beholden to a foreign power. The post-Deng Xiaoping order meets these requirements, which is in part why I think that a new period of technical and cultural “flowering” is taking off right now.

    In other words, if I’m right, China is probably entering a new golden age (if it can sort out it’s myriad problems, which I believe it can); if he’s right, it’s just a country full of hopeless “damned souls” who we either need to save with our superior western ways, or be on guard against lest they corrupt us. I see the latter as an extremely pessimistic, unhelpful, and un-useful viewpoint which I denounce.

    Like

  22. FOARP,

    Your thinking in where the Chinese government being a single entity where everyone thinks in unison is just plain stupid. Just because some local corrupt government offical gives permission to build something, doesn’t mean the higher ups said yes. Of course, that’s the problem with many China bashers who thinks China have no laws when this is an example of one.

    Like

  23. @Putz_ster – Unlike you (I’m guessing) I have actually worked on something related to the law in China (i.e., making patent applications in China). I am certainly not saying that China has no laws. If I had believed that this were the case, I would certainly not have advised clients on how to gain patent rights in China!

    I am, however, saying that there appears to be no basis IN CHINESE LAW for Ai’s house arrest – if there were good legal grounds for his arrest, even as a preventative measure, then he would have been put in a jail cell. I am also saying that, if Ai had been assured by a local official that what he was doing was OK, it seems hard to place the full blame on him if the building was actually illegal. Furthermore, why have no measures been taken against this person, who you describe as a “local corrupt government offical[sic]”?

    Like

  24. “The centuries of stagnation” idea deals with economic growth using gdp as a measure and is true of every non-european culture. Chinese people nonetheless invented things during this time, they just didn’t have a division of labour needed to make them useful. Even in the Mao era, when everyone was supposedly too busy dying to do anything, PRC government scientist made contributions to the green revolution that ended up saving millions of lives from hunger (ironic I guess).

    Like

  25. What a lot of cross-purposed posts.

    #1 Chinese women enjoy considerably more freedoms (and also assert their independence) than do women in Korea and Japan.

    #2 Jacques Martin the apostate marxist who reinvented himself. China’s exceptionalism today 2010. ***Forget it***. It is domestic and rising inflation, plus a number of very large bubbles. And the govt is pretty well flat footed when it comes to an effective panacea. So much for authoritarian capitalism as an alternative model to the US or the EU. Watch the whole gig begin to unravel in the short-term future.

    #3 The exportation of Chinese culture….music and literature. Groan/snigger. I could mount an easy argument that piss poor African countries such as Mali, Nigeria, Senegal etc have had a much more profound effect on Europe and the West generally in musical terms (try the radio dial)than China will ever have in a 100 years.

    Any Chinese writers found on western book shelves pissed off from their homeland asap after the visa arrived.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s