Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


好一朵美丽的茉莉花
April 3, 2011 12:35 PM   Subscribe

As words of a Jasmine Revolution started circulating online, several Chinese dissidents were disappeared, including the activist and lawyer Teng Biao. Today, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained, along with several of his staff.
posted by klue (27 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
:-(

Not unexpected but a bummer anyway. Strange I didn't hear much about this in the MSM but then I've been travelling...

China really has that "keeping the lid on the pot" thing down. They always do this about three months IMHO before the pot would boil.

. or whatever's appropriate for something where we can have little real input at all.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:45 PM on April 3, 2011


Ai Weiwei previously and previously.
posted by klue at 1:07 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey China, how's that "permanent revolution" thin working out for ya?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:10 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


thing
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:11 PM on April 3, 2011


What's certain is that if someone is arrested, he or she must have broken the law and needs to be punished accordingly

The reason no revolution will happen in China any time soon is that most Chinese people seem to agree with this kind of thing. They don't associate calls for freedom with anything to do with their lives, and agree that those making such calls are "troublemakers" who deserve what they get. Mute crowds standing around watching is as much attention as such "troublemakers" usually receive.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:06 PM on April 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


If I thought America was shitting the bed in dealing with the African revolutions, I can't even imagine what they'd do with one in China.
posted by codacorolla at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2011


The reason no revolution will happen in China any time soon is that most Chinese people seem to agree with this kind of thing.

And they will continue to do so as long as China's economy is booming. The conditions that led to upheaval in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya just don't exist in China, and I seriously doubt anyone in China takes this talk of a jasmine revolution in China seriously. Educated youth with a lack of opportunity are the engines of those revolutions, and the educated youth in China have a lot of opportunity in front of them and are generally happy with the central government.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:30 PM on April 3, 2011


The reason no revolution will happen in China any time soon is that most Chinese people seem to agree with this kind of thing.

That reason seems wildly speculative and ignorant. Especially in light of the literally hundreds of mass protests featuring thousands of people in China that happen every single year. I have no idea what or how most Chinese people think; neither do you, and neither probably do most Chinese people.

And they will continue to do so as long as China's economy is booming.

That is the real reason - coupled with the paranoia, nationalist brainwashing, and strict control used by the CCP. Young, unemployed people make revolutions, and China doesn't have the kind of numbers of young, unemployed people those other countries do.
posted by smoke at 4:37 PM on April 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


The reason no revolution will happen in China any time soon is that most Chinese people seem to agree with this kind of thing.
No. China today is completely different than China 5 years ago. The cultural zeitgeist is obsessed with government corruption. The economic riots you see in North Africa / Middle East are about to happen to China in the next couple years. It won't be about food, it'll be about housing. People I know that recently visited China all say there is a marked shift in the national dialogue. Several years ago it was radical patriotism, something like the "Anti-CNN" movement that we saw several years ago would never happen today. Talk to an average taxi driver in any 2nd-tier city in China and wait for them to complain about corruption and the high price of housing.

There is widespread dissatisfaction that is about to boil over. I give it 3-years tops. If the Chicoms are smart, they'll reform the court system and build government housing. They're doing neither in a wide enough scale due to entrenched interests. There aren't many public protests about free speech, food, or police brutality. Every day in China there are small scale protests about forced evictions, and they are growing larger and more frequent.
posted by amuseDetachment at 4:49 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's under my impression that most people in China are satisfy with their central government. Wen Jiabao, the current Premier of China is a very popular figure. He's often called "Grandpa Wen" by young people online. It's the constant corruption from local government that infuriated them. My Dad is Li Gang Incident was an example of the arbitrary powers the local officials and their relatives often have over the people.
posted by Carius at 5:55 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frontline (PBS) just did a segment on him that I highly recommend: Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei?
In fact, I wonder if the broadcast is partly to blame.
posted by 445supermag at 6:42 PM on April 3, 2011


"That reason seems wildly speculative and ignorant. Especially in light of the literally hundreds of mass protests featuring thousands of people in China that happen every single year."

"No. China today is completely different than China 5 years ago. The cultural zeitgeist is obsessed with government corruption. The economic riots you see in North Africa / Middle East are about to happen to China in the next couple years."

No. This kind of anger is directed locally, and in some cases, actively encouraged. The central government carefully crafts its image as for the people, and media widely publicizes successful attempts at rooting out corruption.

There will be no revolution.
posted by yifes at 6:54 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


That reason seems wildly speculative and ignorant. Especially in light of the literally hundreds of mass protests featuring thousands of people in China that happen every single year. I have no idea what or how most Chinese people think; neither do you, and neither probably do most Chinese people.
It's what Chinese 'elites' think, and those are the people who Americans are most likely to interact with. There is a lot of economic hardship for a lot of people in China, but probably not enough for a revolution.
The economic riots you see in North Africa / Middle East are about to happen to China in the next couple years. It won't be about food, it'll be about housing.
They've already been happening. The problem is the government shuts them down, and there isn't much media coverage.

But the thing is, with all those empty apartments their building, the Chinese will actually be able to house those people if they need too, just take them away from the rich or force them to be rented out at market rates or something.

Everyone in the west is just waiting for the Chinese government to topple, but they seem to know what they're doing for now.

What's interesting will be whether or not the rot of nepotism and corruption eats away at the unaccountable central government. If they can stop that from happening, they may be able to sustain this model for a long time (unfortunately)
posted by delmoi at 7:29 PM on April 3, 2011


There could be no more appropriate moment to post this photograph by Ai, which I admired at MOMA last fall without knowing who he was.
posted by escabeche at 8:42 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm also of the view that the social conditions don't exist for a national, cross-class movement as seen in the Maghreb and Middle East. That's partly due to the old chestnut that China is just different, particularly in terms of sheer size and diversity (a factor in the defeat of the in many respects analogous social movements of '89 - like any other invention, China got there first) and partly because that diversity includes a separation between the interests of the connected urbanites who are the putative catalyst and the broader mass of the population who'd have to be brought on board for it to achieve any momentum. The controls in place and the targeted arrests such as these seem to be sufficient to prevent that gap in interests being bridged through open debate, even were the will to do so there. They're making damn sure no new Mao figure will ever be able to nativise an internationally prevalent theory of social justice in a way that can become relevant and appealing to a majority.
posted by Abiezer at 8:47 PM on April 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just wanted to agree with yifes- in my limited experience experience local politicians are seen as responsible for corruption, and the central government idealized. Which, to be fair, given the unprecedented economic boom which has happened in the last decade or two, is a reasonable attitude to take. I think there's also much more of a tendency to defer to authority opinions in general- for instance on discussing economics something like "but I don't understand things like that, you in the west are so smart". Which, again, is a fairly reasonable attitude. People in the West have very strong opinions about economic systems about which they frankly have little technical knowledge. If you have a cadre in power who've delivered the results for twenty years, it's rational to leave the decision to them. A revolution will only happen to my mind if or when the economy stalls.

And we shouldn't forget that the Middle-East protests have been in many ways economic rather than solely political. Freedom, which is the vague watchword, can also mean economic self-determination. It was a fruit-seller losing his license who kicked the whole thing off, and objections to Mubarak were in large part about the lack of opportunities for young people (in theory, due to corruption).
posted by Marlinspike at 9:49 PM on April 3, 2011


Again, you're being a little behind the curve here. The belief of "Local government corrupt, central government good" is dead. Public perception of Wen has changed. There's a meme in China of "Wen only does photo ops." Beijing has gone from "well intentioned and competent" to "ineffectual and corrupt" in the public consciousness very quickly. If you haven't visited China in the past one and a half years, you would not even remotely expect that the average Chinese citizen views Beijing favorably is gone.

Also, it's not that there isn't enough housing stock in cities like Shanghai or Beijing, most Chinese citizens are priced out of those markets anyway (and aren't the demographic or the cities that will start protests). It's the ridiculous rise in prices for second and third tier Chinese cities that is a cause for concern. Many are locked into morgages that require 3 generations of families to pay for and there is a huge undercurrent of public anger if you're willing to go outside 1st tier cities and talk to anyone.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:12 PM on April 3, 2011


I'd also like to add that, in my opinion, any revolution is probably not going to directly come out of the Jasmine Revolution movement. It's far too cerebral and intellectual, akin to 1989. The only people who know about it are people with strong foreign links. It's not domestic enough and a lot of their protest sites were around yuppy areas.

If I had to speculate, I'd see mass protests as much more likely to come from one random forced eviction in a 2nd or 3rd tier city (probably the south, where all the revolutions in China have seemed to take place) rather than something like the Jasmine Revolution. No real rhyme or reason as to why it causes people to mass revolt other than being the last backbreaking straw (much like the Tunisian Fruit Seller). Also, there has been a tendancy for witchhunts, so it'll be a lot uglier than one would imagine. In short, one shouldn't look at intellectual protest movements, like 1989, they won't succeed -- look for the potential for populist uprisings.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:39 PM on April 3, 2011


amuseDetachment, I think you should adjust your expectations of some of the commenters in this thread. Some people participating here (I do not number myself among them) are very knowledgeable/experienced about China. There is no reason to believe that your assertions are more or less valid then theirs.

I understand, this being China and all, that supporting evidence is difficult to find and oft-times contradictory, but I do think you should consider their opinions, too.

If you haven't visited China in the past one and a half years, you would not even remotely expect that the average Chinese citizen views Beijing favorably is gone.


Again, truly, unless you're doing some very special work I don't think visiting China in the past year would give anyone a special insight into what a huge and diverse population is thinking. I don't even know who "the average Chinese citizen" would be, or what they would think, and honestly, I don't think there's many people outside of academia who do. So much of what we see from China - both in the west, and in China itself - is mediated and shaped; there is a huge proportion of people who are essentially voiceless, and an even larger proportion who are essentially deaf.

Thus, I'm very conservative in my opinions. Certainly, there is much unrest in China - it would be naive and foolish to deny otherwise - but equally, there has been much unrest in the past. I don't think China currently meets the critieria for a popular revolution or civil uprising. To the best of my knowledge, it would be unprecedented for a country in its position to have a revolution. This could change in the future, but not the near future, I don't think. It takes time for that kind of movement to swell up, and by time it's on the edge, China could very well be walking towards democracy.
posted by smoke at 10:47 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you're broadly right about that shift in perceptions amuseD, but that as things stand with no viable alternative I think the general sensible pragmatism of most means there's still the sense that if you knock down a central government at least somewhat concerned with addressing the many social, economic and environmental problems the country faces all you'll be left with is those local bandit regimes of the utterly venal and self-interested - i.e. what would replace the present regime is a veritable upsurge of the short-termist greedy chancers they partially keep in check. Hence what I mean about the main task of state security being to stop a coherent national alternative emerging and that as things stand that being sufficient to keep all outbreaks of resentment to scattered locales.
On preview re. the 'cerebral' concerns: I minded of a (probably a bit over-the-top) self-criticism by one '89 activist that characterised the then movement in terms similar to those you outline. When the wider Beijing populace rose up in response to events in the academies/square, the bulk of the student leaders were unable or unprepared to broaden their movement to encompass them. A few problems with that take spring to mind but it's definitely a view worth taking into account.
posted by Abiezer at 10:53 PM on April 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should say, arseholes they both partially keep in check on the one hand and create and enable on t'other, adding another layer of complexity.
posted by Abiezer at 10:56 PM on April 3, 2011


The Sixth Republic happened. The KMT handing over power peacefully to the DPP after a fair election happened. A prosperous middle class will become involved in local politics, and successful local politicians will become involved in regional politics. It will just happen... especially in a culture which has lauded the civil-servant as an aspirational career for the most intelligent and successful, a tradition going back millennia.

China isn't an isolated little city-state like Singapore - they can't keep the pot-lid on corruption and keep track of everyone on a local level.

So, keep an eye on the cities and towns - the small neighborhood organizations that work together to influence city hall, the charities that spring up to help the destitute or protect the environment. It will start there. It will end with a modern, industrial democracy.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:09 AM on April 4, 2011


Which Other Dissidents Have Been Detained During China's Crackdown?
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on April 4, 2011


China police building tax case against detained artist
posted by homunculus at 6:50 PM on April 14, 2011


This is an odd angle on AWW's case: Arrested Chinese Blackjack Guru Ai WeiWei also an Artist and Activist. Man of many parts!
posted by Abiezer at 4:32 AM on April 15, 2011


A Provocateur Finds Out Just How Far He Can Go: Artist Ai Weiwei pushed boundaries with his art. Now the chinese government is pushing back.
posted by homunculus at 1:58 PM on April 17, 2011


Fears in China as another human rights lawyer disappears: Li Fangping went missing on Friday, the day that Chinese authorities released fellow lawyer Teng Biao
posted by homunculus at 9:44 AM on May 1, 2011


« Older Some people have claimed that Barbie is really abo...  |  Nerdgasm [SLYT].... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments