[Update: A rather comprehensive analysis of Huanqiu’s Ai Weiwei coverage, as of April 8, can be found here via the scrupulous work of JustRecently.]
Imagine my surprise, when, today, I opened my friendly neighborhood Huanqiu Shibao website only to find an article about detained artist Ai Weiwei right there in a very prominent position. This latest one describes how German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been denying Der Spiegel reports that she called for the release of Ai Weiwei. (Certainly domestic pressure in Germany is building for her to take such a move, and Merkel’s tendency is to follow popular sentiment in virtually all things, but then again, German corporate interests [the Handelsblatt-reading crowd] are not particularly keen on Merkel butting heads overtly with China.)
A couple of government-approved Netizen comments on the story sum things up nicely:
Who is Ai Weiwei?
What is “Der Spiegel”?
If the West supports it, we must oppose it.
The same countries that were part of the 8-power intervention [of 1900]…
Ever since the Opium War…
Of course, context is everything with Huanqiu, and it’s worth recollecting when considering how Chinese readers absorb the news about Ai Weiwei. The neighboring story to Ai Weiwei’s on the Huanqiu website is about the need for vigilance against the post-quake revived Japanese air force. The besieged and aggrieved world view finds another outlet: is this healthy? Isn’t the official Chinese press response to criticism of the Ai Weiwei detention in large measure quite reflexive, coiling back into tried-and-true formulaic accusations of West intervening in China’s internal affairs?
The Berlin Tageszeitung carries a fascinating short report from a rather large get-together of art-world higher-ups at the Art Cologne meetings which just ended today, dealing in part with the impact of Ai Weiwei’s arrest on the (rising) price of his artworks.
Finally, don’t miss this fascinating interview with architect Meinhard von Gerken with Der Spiegel, which, among other things, engages in a lengthy and disputed comparison of contemporary China with the old German Democratic Republic. Gerken designed the new National Museum in Beijing, which is where the Art of the Enlightenment exhibit is being held. And thus we have multiple German views of the Ai Weiwei affair.