Ai has been told by the security service that his existence is very important to the state. I think this is because his existence / story demonstrates two things: the state does express its disagreement and can detain / punish, the state allows provides an environment open to criticism and does allow people to express themselves.
Ai is high profile and so the allowance of continued activity of a high profile dissident by a state which is in many cases criticized as getting rid of critics is an important counter narrative that the state wants, I believe.
But I think it's more than that also. Ai is very Chinese and represents something very Chinese: a native cultural ideal, a person who is globally recognized as excelling in his field. His work is not just critical of his homeland, it comments on control in many places.
So I think Ai's case, on the whole, functions more as positive rather than negative propaganda for China.
One further and more controversial point I'll make is that Ai is in the same business as Chinese PR, shaping / playing with perceptions. I think Ai has realized for a long time that art coupled with subtly sensational criticism of his homeland gets him more traction in the global art scene, than just art. This is another aspect to the symbiosis. Ai's criticism of China, permitted by China, also gives China a larger profile in the cultural world through Ai. I admire the cleverness of these instances where the Chinese use Western cultural biases against us cleverly for their own benefit. Meaning that often in the West people are looking to fill in a narrative about the Chinese state being bad, and Ai, by supplying that demand in a satisfying way for us, enhances his career, and actually, I believe, subtly promotes / enhances China's image, using the very narrative demand the West has against the West's intention with it. In other words, the West, by elevating Ai, also elevates China, probably against their intent to do so, and precisely because, I believe, China knows how the play the demand for narrative bias to its advantage.
But even if people in Western civil society organizations understand this, what choice do they have? They want to promote a certain set of values, so they have to use Ai as a persona. So Ai's existence is probably a win-win for all, rather than just the seeming clear win for the anti-China camp that his dissident status on the surface suggests.
There's probably instances of the West using this kind of "appetite for bias" to its own advantage as well but I have not reflected as much about it.
the folks doing real activism continue to disappear in silence. often drowned in the religious charlatans noise that I will not even name here.
> The AFP reports that the rental contract on Ai's studio expired last fall, and that Ai had "been expecting to leave the studio soon."
Sure, maybe they wouldn't have abruptly torn it down if he was still in their favour, but they're also not obligated to let him have that workspace for free.
Maybe he was planning it as a political act, a performance piece of sorts. Regardless, I still don’t think having an expired lease should be met with a destroyed workspace.
> I’ve had rental contracts expire in NYC and you just pay month to month after that.
The reason that works in NYC is because by law rental contracts that expire (without specific language to the contrary) become month to month leases. That may or may not be the case in China.
And while there are more protections for residences (so you don't become homeless overnight), there are less for commercial spaces (like an artist's studio) because you're expected to be commercially responsible about these things. If you can't move your stuff out of a commercial space several months after your lease has ended, then the problem is with you, no?
Imagine the landlord wants to sell the property to a large property developer, one who may want to place 100+ units on your previously single unit rental. Is it fair that Ai can just stay there...perpetually - holding up 99 extra units on the market because he can't be bothered to move out?
> In federal law, Congress may take private property directly (without recourse to the courts) by passing an Act transferring title of the subject property directly to the government. In such cases, the property owner seeking compensation must sue the United States for compensation in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. The legislature may also delegate the power to private entities like public utilities or railroads, and even to individuals. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently deferred to the right of states to make their own determinations of "public use".
Of course he can - he is an activist, he doesn't need a rental agreement or title of land, he owns the place where he wants, he is an activist! as clearly stated by the article, the lease expired last fall, almost 1 year after the expiration of the lease, he just have too much stuff stored in that place, how that is not a strong enough reason to keep staying there? why the landlord can't just give him another 3-5 years rent free period so he can slowly move his stuff as he want?
He is an activity against the Chinese government, he is entitled to do/own anything he wants. You are brainwashed if you don't agree with that.
Instead, please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow them from now on, including these:
1. Be civil.
2. Comments should get more civil and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive.
> One of Ai's assistants, Gang Ra, told the AFP new agency that the rental contract for the building had ended last year but that it "simply wasn't possible" to move out at the time because of the amount of works still present.
> He said that they had been told that the move would need to take place within a matter of days, but added that they had not been warned when the demolition would begin.
As much as I love his work, agreed this sounds like a non-story. He's a tenant who refused to leave for at least 7 months and the landlord had other plans for the property.
If Ai had been the owner and his building were demolished without warning, that would be completely different... but that doesn't seem to be the case at all.
It would be helpful if you could clarify your point and your argument.
I don't disagree much with American Establishment propaganda, but to deny the bias in almost all cultural output is foolish.
And yes, Trump is a victim of Establishment propaganda. He deserves it most of the time, but the times he doesn't are what gives his followers the oxygen to shout fake news alongside him.
Sorry for the rant. As a Chinese, I just hate those people with very special privilege to show off in the name of some symbol impressing outsiders and has nothing to do with all those truly matter.
I like China and its people, but this argument doesn't make much sense. It's the last part (not the middle) that makes it impossible to fix corruption.
That's extremely hard for someone to get away with. He can simply ignore it? I do not follow Ai's news after I did a little research many years ago. He's famous on HN. So I wanted to find out what this guy did and what his works were like at that time.
IIRC, he is a son of a ruling party's famous poetist which indicates he has some strong connections.
Last time I read some news of him was live stream his own life in Beijing's studio or something like that. Of course, with his experience, acceptance/approval level in western world and his art skills (he has some real art work. For me, his work is facing outsider customers, expressing the customer's view of China in a bit above average customers' way.), he is among the best options for some field.
I don't understand what you mean by mentioning 'last part (not the middle)'.
What I meant (by 'the last part') is that if we excuse the government for politically motivated force to punish non-violent dissent for any reason, then we are agreeing with the worst form of corruption. Bribes (and excusing them) are bad enough, but excusing threats, violence, and property destruction by the state is worse. How to create a better (more fair) place to live for the poor and weak with this kind of threat, when even the wealthy, connected, and famous can't speak up?
When I see this sort of acceptance from my colleagues from Africa, India, South America it saddens me just as much as it does in China.
He's not. After everything he went through, he moved to Germany.
Criticizing Ai Weiwei as a person of privilege who's able to get away with things conveniently ignores the harrassment and subjugation by the Chinese authorities that he's endured. It sounds rather like you're condemning him for somehow not suffering enough, in proportion to the severity of his dissidence?