Smashing Chunks from the Great Firewall in Berlin / Ai Weiwei in Munich

A great convergence is occuring again between Germany and China.  As the 9 November anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (“der Mauerfall” / “le chute de la Mur”) approaches, further thoughts are twisting around the notions of democracy and democratic change.

Two examples:

The first is the Berlin Twitterwall, a magnificent little online monument to the fall of the wall.  The site was basically overtaken by comments by Chinese netizens denouncing the Great Firewall of China (GFW for short), that is, until the site was blocked in China yesterday.  As the Berliner Morgenpost reports (in German), the organizers of the Berlin Twitterwall were mainly concerned that the site would be taken over by Neo-Nazis — and thus were overjoyed when their own handiwork became a platform for social change in the PRC.

Veteran journalist Mark MacKinnon has a solid post up on this matter on his blog, which also includes tales of his late August 2009 journey into North Korea.    The title?  “Mr. Hu, Tear Down this Firewall!”

Unfortunately, Barack Obama and his familiar, the Dartmouth Chinese Studies major and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, have no such ability to channel Ronald Reagan in speaking with their Chinese counterparts.

I have as yet found no indication in the Chinese media that discussion of any kind of Germany’s unification or the fall of the wall (both major anniversaries approaching for the Germans) will be permitted in the mass media, still smarting from the Frankfurt Book Fair fiascos.  Don’t be suprised if somehow China is offended as Germans wonder aloud why China hasn’t undertaken a similarly rapid road to democracy, or their reminiscing on how the Tiananmen Square events of 4 June 1989 helped to stimulate protestors in Leipzig and East Berlin.

The second convergence relates to artist Ai Weiwei, a man wholly lionized in the German press, such as in this article from Die Zeit:

I’ve got the whole thing digitized, but will probably release it in dribs and drabs, as it’s a very long article and, by and large, the readers of this blog are Anglophones rather than Wagnerites (assuming most Germans love Wagner’s music, which they really ought to).   I also find my mannerisms a bit annoying and my office cluttered, but that can’t be helped.  As Ai’s exhibition is entitled: So sorry!  There is a great deal of bitterness toward the PRC buried in this article, which among other things recounts Ai Weiwei’s childhood in exile — he was born in 1957, on the cusp of his father being exiled to the desert during the Anti-Rightist campaign.  As the CCP was fawning over itself on October 1, Germans were sitting down to their morning coffee to learn about the Cultural Revolution from Ai Weiwei, a man, in their eyes, of singular stature and moral weight.

Hat tip to Just Recently for the Berliner Morgenpost tip.


  1. Unfortunately, Barack Obama and his familiar, the Dartmouth Chinese Studies major and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, have no such ability to channel Ronald Reagan in speaking with their Chinese counterparts.

    To be fair, the USSR was never as commercially attractive then, as China is now. I’m quite sure that Ronald Reagan would have minced his words much more carefully in the current situation (but I’m not suggesting that he’d be right in doing so).
    I’d see America in trouble if Obama refuses to meet the Dalai Lama both before and after his visit to China. Without wanting to lionize the Dalai Lama – the preparedness of American presidents to talk with him is a litmus test.

    1. One of these days, I am going to need to learn more about Reagan’s China policy. It got buried under Iran-Contra and everything else, but I can only imagine there are many significant and interesting details we have yet to learn. I did find out from George Washington U. professor James Hershberg in 2006 that he has documents proving the U.S. and China were both collaborating to send mujahadeen into Afghanistan — something we knew already for the US, but the Chinese angle! Very interesting — anything to cause problems for the Soviets. His library is in Southern California. Many unopened China boxes!

      Perhaps our Cold War paradigms need to come down as well. Something about “die Mauer im Kopf.”

      As for Dalai Lama, now _there_ is a man who has survived every vicissitude — who else on the global political stage besides the retiring Castro has dealt in-depth with Mao and is still active to tell the tales and manuever about? So I’m impressed — but keep in mind Dalai Lama has very strong ties to members of US Congress, esp. Nancy Pelosi, so the President making him wait (at least Obama is being traditional by going to Japan first!) is, I think, not such a game-changer. We will see what favors China does in return, that is, besides keeping global demand strong. (US economy was just announced 25 minutes ago to have grown more than 3% in the previous quarter!) Ah, I have strayed now from Dalai Lama to the dollar — more evidence that as the Western mind meanders, it cleaves to Weber rather than Yahweh.

  2. The Shanghai communiqués should be a good searchword for the Reagan administration’s China policies. Reagan announced that he would switch diplomatic relations back from Beijing to Taipei during the presidential campaign in 1979 or 1980, if I remember it right, but – predictably – wouldn’t stick to that announcement. Btw, Beijing said something like “Reagan should shut his big mouth”, which he did.

    1. For some reason there is something really beautiful and misty of the very thought of such a thing as “1979.” Of late I have been a bit entangled with that other “cusp-year,” the ’89, and ’99 (and ’09 for that matter!) was rather choked with huge events. So for the meantime I will get to work on idealizing the year 1979 and then can tear it down as if suddenly living in close quarters with a previously perfect Gretchen. (Can’t recall at the moment if Faust ever experiences disillusionment of a type.)

      Now I have veered from Reagan to Faust — More proof, if any were needed after perusing the China Daily forum to find posters with 40,000 nationalistic essays to their names, that “Western” psychology has been twisted by exposure to monolithic “Western media” which emphasizes Faust over the great patriotic hero Zheng He. Must rectify!

  3.   喜妓姘(习近平)吃饱喝足后呼喝道:“戆贼民(江泽民)有金盾工程,狐狸皇(胡锦涛)搞绿坝软件,都是防御性的(盾、坝)。我将来登基后,要建一座梦幻城!把全球异议人士都关在梦幻城里,这才是绝地反击,这才扬天朝神威!”


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