Culture

06.27.19

‘What I’m Always Doing Is Escaping, Escaping, Escaping’

Perry Link
Liu Xia, widow of Liu Xiaobo, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 and died while in Chinese custody in 2017, has opened up to the public for the first time since she began a life of exile in Germany nearly a year ago. On May 4, in a dialogue with...

Ai Weiwei Responds To Chinese Authorities Destroying His Beijing Studio

Shannon Von Sant
NPR
In Beijing, the AFP reports that authorities have slated the neighborhood surrounding Ai's studio for redevelopment. According to the AP, Beijing has destroyed "large swaths of the suburbs over the past year in a building safety campaign...

‘The Biggest Taboo’

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
One of China’s most influential artists is forty-eight-year-old Qiu Zhijie. A native of southern China’s Fujian province, Qiu studied art in the eastern city of Hangzhou before moving to Beijing in 1994 to pursue a career as a contemporary artist...

China’s Art of Containment

Geremie R. Barmé
On the evening of May 20, 1989, in response to weeks of mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government placed Beijing under martial law. The following morning, in Hong Kong, far to the south, Wen Wei Po, the main Communist-...

“We Could All Be Potential Refugees”: Ai Weiwei on the Epic Journey Of “Human Flow”

Gary M. Kramer
Salon
Ai shot 900 hours of footage and conducted 600 interviews over the course of a year, and edited the film over six months.

From Innovation to Provocation, China’s Artists on a Global Path

Holland Cotter
New York Times
Strange to say, although China has 1.4 billion people, it has only one artist, Ai Weiwei. Or so you’d think if you followed the Western news media. “Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum wants to correct...

Sinica Podcast

05.26.17

Chinese Power in the Age of Donald Trump

Jeremy Goldkorn, Kaiser Kuo & more from Sinica Podcast
When Joseph Nye, Jr., first used the phrase “soft power” in his 1990 book Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power, China did not factor much into his calculus of world order: It had relatively little military and economic power, and...

Sinica Podcast

05.12.17

What It Takes to Be a Good China-Watcher

Kaiser Kuo & Bill Bishop from Sinica Podcast
China-watching isn’t what it used to be. Not too long ago, the field of international China studies was dominated by a few male Westerners with an encyclopedic knowledge of China, but with surprisingly little experience living in the country or...

Ai Weiwei to West: Tackle China on Human Rights Whatever the Cost

Benjamin Haas
Guardian
‘It doesn’t matter it will hurt me or not – do what you think is right’: artist says Beijing has axed rule of law for anyone with contrary political views

China Rights Lawyer Xia Lin Jailed for 12 Years

BBC
Ai Weiwei's lawyer sentenced for 'fraud'...

Excerpts

03.22.16

Beyond ‘Chicken or Beef’ Choices in China Debates

Jeffrey Wasserstrom
Growing up in California with no special interest in China, one of the few things I associated with the big country across the Pacific was mix-and-match meal creation. On airplanes and in school cafeterias, you just had “chicken or beef” choices,...

Media

10.29.15

Ai Weiwei Doesn’t Need Anyone to Give Him Legos

James Palmer
The noted Chinese artist and perennial dissident Ai Weiwei recently announced that Lego, a Denmark-based company, had refused his request to purchase more than a million of the tiny toy bricks for an Australian display of his work “Trace,” a...

Ai Weiwei Memoir Coming in Spring 2017

STAV ZIV
Newsweek
Crown Publishing Group announced that it will publish a memoir by the artist in the spring of 2017.

Artist Ai Weiwei Discovers Hidden 'Listening Devices' in Beijing Studio

Tiffany Ap
CNN
"When I found these bugs, I had a strange feeling," he said...

‘I Try to Talk Less’: A Conversation with Ai Weiwei and Liao Yiwu

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
In late July, Chinese authorities renewed travel privileges for conceptual artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, ending a five-year prohibition following his arrest in 2011. He promptly flew to Munich and then Berlin, where he has accepted a...

Chinese Society 'Very Fragile,' Warns Dissident Artist Ai Weiwei

Mick Krever
CNN
Suffocated by censorship, Chinese society is "very fragile," warned dissident artist Ai Weiwei on Thursday...

Three Days in Beijing with the Global Dissident Elite

Kashmir Hill
Fusion
Poitras, Oscar-winning Citizenfourdirector, came to Beijing to shoot a film about Appelbaum and Ai meeting and making art.

Beyond Ai Weiwei: How China’s Artists Handle Politics (or Avoid Them)

Christopher Beam
New Yorker
Westerners are often criticized for looking at Chinese art through a narrow political lens.

Culture

12.19.14

‘One Day the People Will Speak Out for Me’

Sheila Melvin
The ongoing exhibition “@Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz” is both revelatory and heart-wrenching, a stunning and sobering work by an artist who understands firsthand the fragility and pricelessness of freedom.Detained without warning or charge for 81...

The (Continuing) Story of Ai—From Tragedy to Farce

Paul Gladston
Randian
In recent weeks Ai Weiwei has become embroiled, yet again, in apparent controversy.

Is That Leg Loaded? Ai Weiwei Starts Web Craze With Mysterious ‘Leg-Gun’ Pose

Nell Frizzell
Guardian
The Chinese artist has sparked an internet meme by posting pictures of people with their legs raised and pointing like rifles. Is it his latest revolutionary act? A new dance craze? Or the next Angelina Jolie's thigh? We weigh up the options...

Books

05.22.14

Age of Ambition

Evan Osnos
From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy—or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don’t see is how both powerful and ordinary people are remaking their lives as their country dramatically changes.As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control. He asks probing questions: Why does a government with more success lifting people from poverty than any civilization in history choose to put strict restraints on freedom of expression? Why do millions of young Chinese professionals—fluent in English and devoted to Western pop culture—consider themselves “angry youth,” dedicated to resisting the West’s influence? How are Chinese from all strata finding meaning after two decades of the relentless pursuit of wealth?Writing with great narrative verve and a keen sense of irony, Osnos follows the moving stories of everyday people and reveals life in the new China to be a battleground between aspiration and authoritarianism, in which only one can prevail. —Farrar, Straus, and Giroux {chop}

Media

04.17.14

Ai Weiwei’s Reach Draws New Yorkers’ Attention to Free Speech

Kim Wall
“Ai Weiwei retweeted me!” exclaimed a young blonde woman, laughing and waving her iPhone in the air with excitement. She and some two hundred other New Yorkers had gathered on the steps of the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza to show her...

China: “Capitulate or Things Will Get Worse”

Perry Link from New York Review of Books
The massacre of protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989, and the harsh repression during the months immediately following put China into a foul mood. Among ordinary Chinese, the prestige of the Communist Party, whose leaders had ordered the brutal...

Conversation

09.17.13

What’s Behind China’s Recent Internet Crackdown?

Xiao Qiang, John Garnaut & more
Last weekend, Charles Xue Manzi, a Chinese American multi-millionaire investor and opinion leader on one of China’s most popular microblogs, appeared in handcuffs in an interview aired on China Central Television (CCTV). Xue is just the most visible...

Ai Weiwei Talks Edward Snowden, Nationalism, and Fighting Boredom

Wang Yiquan
Blouin Artinfo
“Nationalism is a very old concept, and it has become weaker during globalisation,” Ai told ARTINFO. “But from the Snowden incident, we can see that even if nationalism is weak, its power structures still exist.” 

Mapping Chinese Food Scandals on New Art from Ai Weiwei

Gwynn Guilford, Ritchie King and Herman...
Quartz
The staff at Quartz magazine have mapped the locations of various prominent food scandals that have hit China in the last few years, projected on top of Ai Weiwei’s “Baby Formula 2013” art installation.

Brief Thoughts on Ai Weiwei’s Music Video “Dumbass”

Siweiluozi
Siweiluozi’s Blog
Those who like Ai’s brand of (increasingly) political performance art will probably like it, while those who tend to see his facility with the foreign media as his primary talent are unlikely to change their views upon listening to this latest...

Ai Weiwei, China’s Useful Dissident

Matt Schiavenza
Atlantic
By enhancing his celebrity through publicity stunts, Ai has unwittingly empowered the Chinese Communist Party by outwardly conforming to its definition of a dissident: a narcissist more attuned to the whims of foreign admirers than to the interests...

Mo Yan Grants First Interview Since Winning Nobel Prize

Anthony Tao
Beijing Cream
A look at the highlights from a Der Spiegel interview with Mo, covering Ai Weiwei’s and Liao Yiwu’s criticism of the author, his comments on the Cultural Revolution, and his relationship with the government. 

Ordering Off the Menu in China Debates

Jeffrey Wassterstrom
Oxford University Press Blog
Mo Yan’s Nobel Prize win last fall led some foreign commentators into an “Ai Weiwei or Zhang Yimou” trap. The former is an artist locked into an antagonistic relationship with the government, the latter a filmmaker who has been...

Media

12.04.12

“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” Hits the Road

Jonathan Landreth
Debut filmmaker Alison Klayman has been on a global tour with her documentary—Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry—a film about one of China’s most provocative artists and activists, which this week, was named one of fifteen films put on a short list to be...

Ai's Song: Elton John Praises Artist in Beijing

Carlos Tejada
Wall Street Journal
Elton John struck a note of support for dissident artist Ai Weiwei at his show in Beijing, but did he also strike a blow at China’s live music scene?

Getting Over Ai Weiwei

Paul Gladston
Randian
There are, though, significant dangers in the upholding of Ai as our sole representative/mediator of artistic resistance to authority within China. While Ai’s bluntly confrontational and often bombastic stance can be readily digested within Western...

Video: A Visit with Ai Weiwei

Evan Osnos
New Yorker
Earlier this year, we invited the artist Ai Weiwei to visit the United States to take part in the New Yorker Festival, held in early October. At the time, the Chinese government had barred Ai from traveling abroad—an unofficial form of punishment...

Review: Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn

Roberta Smith
New York Times
Mr. Ai, who seems to lose his sense of humor only rarely, has characterized his increasingly dangerous jousting with the Chinese government as a kind of performance art. 

Review of Ai Weiwei at the Hirshhorn

James Panero
Wall Street Journal
Ai Weiwei will probably be regarded as the most important artist of the past decade. He is certainly its most newsworthy and arguably its most inspiring. Over the repressions of Chinese authorities, he has used a wide range of resources to broadcast...

Beijing Blocks Dissident’s Art Company

Edward Wong
New York Times
Liu Xiaoyuan, a lawyer friend of Ai Weiwei, the artist and frequent critic of the Communist Party, has said in an online posting that Chinese officials have revoked the business license of Mr. Ai’s art production company, Beijing Fake...

Ai Weiwei: I Won’t Pay

Josh Chin
WSJ: China Real Time Report
Artist Ai Weiwei said he would refuse to pay the remainder of a $2.4 million fine for tax evasion after a Beijing court rejected his appeal on Thursday, setting the stage for another possible showdown between the media-savvy dissident and Chinese...

Review: Ai Weiwei's Blog (The Book)

Alec Ash
Los Angeles Review of Books
On May 28, 2009, the readers of artist and activist Ai Weiwei's blog — hosted on Sina, a popular Chinese internet portal — logged onto blog.sina.com.cn/aiweiwei to find the message "This blog has already been closed. If you have queries,...

“Twitter Is My City”: An Interview with Ai Weiwei

Jonathan Landreth
Foreign Policy
Ai, who lived in New York for much of the 1980s, has become a patron of China's disaffected urbanites, and here, in his tranquil garden, he holds court, offering advice to the thousands of fans, bloggers, activists, and petitioners who visit...

Portrait of a Gadfly—On New Documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”

Jan Kaesebier
One artist, 90 minutes, 5196 children, 9000 backpacks, 81 days in prison and 40 cats, one of them can open the door. “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry” is a short documentary, but it covers many different aspects of the famous Chinese artist-and-dissident’s...

Ai Weiwei Vouches for ‘Never Sorry’ Film

Jonathan Landreth
Wall Street Journal
Alison Klayman was just 24, and a China novice, when she wandered almost by accident into the tumultuous life of Ai Weiwei, China’s most outspoken artist-turned activist, in 2008. The American journalist, from a conservative Jewish upbringing in...

Is Chinese Social Media Becoming an Unruly Fight Club?

Rebecca Liao
To pick out three similar but unrelated incidents on Weibo and call them a trend is to risk forfeiting one’s right to say anything about the social media site ever again, except some things so defy responsible behavior that they deserve to be on the...

Inside the Documentary "Ai Weiwei, Never Sorry"

Larry Rother
New York Times
IN the summer of 2006, having just graduated from Brown University with a degree in history and a yearning for travel, Alison Klayman headed to China. She arrived there speaking no Chinese, with only one contact and a vague notion of learning a new...

Chinese Court Upholds Ai Weiwei Tax Fine

Sui-Lee Wee
Reuters
A Chinese court on Friday upheld a $2.4 million fine for tax evasion against the country's most famous dissident, Ai Weiwei, after barring him from attending the hearing, in a case that critics accuse Beijing of using to muzzle the outspoken...

It's Time to Redefine the China Expert

Jan Kaesebier
Misrepresentations and misunderstandings of “China” is a complicated issue that won’t disappear overnight. The news media you have trusted doesn’t always give you an unbiased perspective, even though they have been trying their best. Even visiting...

Nationalist and Liberal Spar in Beijing Park (With Ai Weiwei Cameo)

David Pilling
Financial Times
In China, as is doubtless the case elsewhere, the distinction between online and offline is blurring. That presents the Communist party with a potentially dangerous problem. Online comment can serve a useful official function, allowing people to...

Sinica Podcast

01.13.12

Year-End Roundup

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
It was the year of the housing market (up then down), Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment, Wukan, the Wenzhou train crash, air pollution, gutter oil, tainted milk, clenbuterol, China bulls and bears, government transparency, the soaring price of Maotai, Guo...

Banned in China

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
In late December, a foreign correspondent in Beijing emailed me to say that a four-page article on China I’d written for a special New Year’s edition of Newsweek had been carefully torn from each of the 731 copies of the magazine on sale in China...

China’s Political Prisoners: True Confessions?

Jonathan Mirsky from New York Review of Books
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s ankle-deep heap of porcelain sunflower seeds bewitched recent visitors to London’s Tate Modern. But in early April Ai’s strong criticisms of the regime led to his disappearance somewhere in Beijing. On June 22, eighty-...

China Misunderstood: Did We Contribute to Ai Weiwei’s Arrest?

Ian Johnson from New York Review of Books
Like many artists, Ai Weiwei enjoys provoking. It isn’t just his finger-to-the-Chinese-government images that he has become known for but also how he does it: his obsessive-compulsive documentation of himself in photos, blogs, tweets, and rants into...

Sinica Podcast

04.16.10

China’s Gadflies and the Mine Miracle

Kaiser Kuo, Jeremy Goldkorn & more from Sinica Podcast
This Week: Kaiser Kuo hosts a discussion all about China’s best-known gadflies: artist-cum-activist Ai Weiwei and writer, auto racer, and blogger Han Han. So join us as we talk about who both of these public figures are and why they have gained so...