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.
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.