Monday, April 4, 2011

The hard edge of China

(Ai Weiwei, China's most famous artist, Picture from 2008)

For a country blessed with a culture as friendly and open as China, they are cursed with many other problems. I was thinking of writing a wide ranging criticism of the Chinese mainland (CCP) political policies, but I think I can settle for highlighting the idiocy of the government's treatment of artists and intellectuals. Specifically Ai Weiwei.

Yesterday, the most famous Chinese artist in the world was detained at an airport in Beijing. For those who don't know: being detained in China isn't like being detained in the West. He has had no contact for the past 24 hours with friends, family, or supporters--no one knows where he is. The Chinese police also have a reputation for cruelty and abuse.

Weiwei's main claim to fame is assisting in the design of the Beijing Bird's Nest stadium (which he later came to regret) and spectacular modern art projects that have been exhibited across the world.

When asked why Chinese mainland movies aren't popular around the world (like American or Bollywood movies) a popular director explained that the Chinese censors castrate any media within the country, and thereby all media without. 

When Hu Jintao said he wanted China to expand it's soft power, he said that there needed to be more focus on the Chinese arts, and culture. And other things that make people think you might be a pretty cool country. Apparently detaining your most famous artists fits in with Mr. Hu's view of rising, more friendly China.

For a government which claims to want "soft power" and wants to export its "wonderful culture" it sure does its best to make sure that doesn't happen. Instead of promoting this talented artist and shrugging off his (valid) criticisms, they knock down the art studio they tricked him into building, beat him until he has a brain hemorrhage, and--now--detain him. 
As I write this, the media is reporting that Ai Weiwei has been missing in the blackhole of CCP-detainment since yesterday.

Now that's how you treat your most famous artist! Show the world your softer side.

No comments: