[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.
As promised, I am working my way through some of the prolix torrent of analysis and concern levied upon the case of Ai Weiwei by authors in Germany, and by German authors in China.
In general, the confrontation between Germany and China over cultural matters and human rights seems now primed to grow exponentially. Museum directors are now musing openly about bringing the Enlightenment exhibition back home to Germany, and elites are wondering how in the dickens China is going to make its “German Culture Year in 2012” anything other than a farce. There are only so many times, the article notes, that even the Confucian axiom (“The Path is the Goal”) can rescue one from a process that seems to be getting nowhere.
The full text of his last documented interview before his detention (a conversation with Heinrik Bork) is available via the Sudddeutscher Zeitung.
The following video is a reading of this early Berlin Tagesspiegel article by Peter von Becker, which you are free to throw into Google translate, which is something I haven’t tried myself. There are, however, subtitles by me for about the first 40% of the piece, with, maybe, more to come.
1. The Crackdown on Dissent
– Pierre Haski covers the arrest of Ai Weiwei and links to a thoughtful British documentary about the artist;
– The Guardian carries an interactive guide to the new detainees;
– Isador’s Fugue, one of my new favorite blogs, carries a thoughtful conversation with a Chinese policeman;
– Dissent carries a solid historically-anchored article by Jeffrey Wasserstrom on the subject of protest in contemporary China.
– Zhang Zhenglong, the military historian best known for his long-banned and controversial history of the Chinese Civil War which included a highly critical appraisal of the tens of thousands of starvation deaths caused by the Chinese communist siege of Changchugn in 1948, is now having his most recent work about the Northeast United Anti-Japanese Army celebrated by Huanqiu Shibao;
– The New Yorker carries a defense of Bob Dylan’s tour in China;
– Liu Xiaobo’s writings are published in French and subsequently receive public readings in Paris;
– Op-Eds in the Huanqiu Shibao seem to be indicating that China is growing comfortable with its new “Global No. 2” status;
– While David Bandurski translates a brutally long and thoughtful essay from the Chinese on the sad state of legal affairs in contemporary Chongqing.
-Anne-Sophie Bentz, who teaches in Geneva, has a tremendous new book out (in French) about Tibetans in exile in India which is summarized here in English;
– Bentz, one to watch (and who knows of what she speaks, having done no small fieldwork among the 145,000 Tibetans in exile in India), writes in Raison magazine about the possiblity of the Dalai Lama “imposing democracy” on his flock;
– Along the same lines, a recent documentary (in French) about the exiles in India and the harsh physical and logistical challenges to Tibetan-language education in northern India is profiled here on Rue89.
A walk to the Bundesarchiv in the Lichterfelde area of Berlin.
North Korean media reports that a small amount of radioactivity from Japan has reached the DPRK. How does a regime that is so good at depicting Japan as a source of constant threat assure people that they are now safe and in good hands? Is there any kind of debate at all among North Koreans about the relative merits and dangers of nuclear energy generally? If Germans in Saar have a right to complain about the French reactors just over the border, don’t North Koreans have the right to ask their neighbors to de-nuclearize?
A young man from Canada (he is 14) is working on a documentary in Seoul about North Korean defectors. Apparently he will be interviewing the South Korean President, whose wife has also been showing interest lately in refugee issues.
China’s major foreign affairs daily, the Huanqiu Shibao, reports (in Chinese) that a North Korean doctor has been wounded in NATO airstrikes in a hospital in Libya. (Showing support for the Libyan government, the same periodical quotes extensively from Quaddafi-regime newspaper in Tripoli which accuses the U.S. of imperialist action in the Korean War and interference in the Chinese revolution of 1949.) I would interpret China’s hard line against military action in Libya as having a side benefit in its relations with North Korea. Perhaps it isn’t so much itself that China is thinking of defending when it stands up for Libyan sovereignty, but the case of little and potentially restive North Korea.
After all, when France (not even the United States) is actively intervening in two civil wars in Africa (Libya and Sierra Leone), there is a good reason for the Chinese to take Europe and the U.S. rather seriously when it comes to rhetoric of regime change and military attacks that come on humanitarian grounds. The very same logic that is today being employed against the Libyan regime could be turned rapidly on Pyongyang.
In the meantime, the action in Syria must be making Kim Jong Il particularly nervous. And the fact that North Korean weapons are being found in Libya.
Of the possible influence of the Arab revolutions on North Korea, Professor Seo Jong Min states:
I think the Middle Eastern democratization movements offer a starting point for rocking the North Korean system. A thought revolution is spreading, a paradigm shift foretelling of the end of authoritarianism in human history. North Korea cannot avoid being a part of this.
We know that North Korea has already prohibited those of its people who were sent to Liyba from returning. It fears the spread of revolution by word-of-mouth. Of course North Korea has almost non-existent internet and social networking infrastructure, and because of this it will be hard for democratization movements to spread like in the Middle East, but the North Korean authorities are worried, which itself tells of the start of change.
Maybe those authorities are worried, but they are also on tours of the northern provinces. Kim Jong Il was in the arsenal city of Kanggye recently, as reported in Chinese media. (As important as Kanggye is to North Korea and to the Sino-North Korean relationship, the city’s Wikipedia page evidences very little work. It doesn’t even have a map. Can we do something about this, friends?)
Stephan Haggard, up to his ears as usual in some of the best data available about the DPRK, has a brief but insightful look into the Kimist culture of “on the spot inspections.”
Finally, North Korea is again demanding apologies and reparations from Japan, as reported here in Chinese.
I was recently asked to update the “Adam Cathcart” entry for the “Faculty Research Page” at Pacific Lutheran University. I kept one sentence from the old entry and then tallied up other recent activities in the research side of the “Adam Cathcart” ledger. It was judged to be too long and was consequently cut down. I think that ultimately I will need a separate web page for my musical scholarship and performance, which are in fact intimately related to everything else and which do constitute a form of research.
In any case, the following update is, in fact, what I am doing and have been up to of late, beyond the inspiring teaching and spirited committee work which is also part of the professorial professional pattern:
Assistant Professor Adam Cathcart continues his field work and archival research in Beijing, Berlin, and the Chinese-North Korean borderlands. In December 2010, Korean Studies published his research article “Nationalism and Ethnic Identity in the Sino-Korean Border Region of Yanbian, 1945-1950.” His recent scholarship on Korean War propaganda was published in Chinese Walls in Time and Space (Cornell University Press, 2010) and Popular Music and Society (London, 2010). On the subject of North Korea’s relationship with China, Cathcart’s blog contains several hundred relevant and original essays written since 2009. In the area of Sino-Japanese relations, Cathcart’s article “To Serve Revenge for the Dead: Chinese Communist Responses to Japanese War Crimes, 1949-1956” won China Quarterly’s Gordon White Prize for the best article of 2009. The China Quarterly article is part of a larger project about the impact of the American occupation of Japan on the growth of Chinese nationalism in the 1950s based on research in the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archive in Beijing. Along with his fieldwork to various anti-Japanese museums in the autumn of 2010, Cathcart performed cello recitals at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and Southwest Nationalities University. In July 2011, he will appear in Chengdu for performances and master classes, and will give a lecture at the American Consulate in that city on the subject of Chinese-Western cultural diplomacy. In April 2011, he gave the German premiere of Gao Ping’s Cello Sonata No. 1 in Berlin and also continued his research in Nazi Party archives. He is presently constructing manuscripts relating to Nanking Massacre films, Japanese-German relations in the Nazi era, Chinese administrators in Tibet in the late 1940s, East German propaganda during the Korean War, Simone de Beauvoir’s appraisal of the PRC, Chinese music and culture after the Lin Biao Incident, and North Korean internationalism.
There is simply a staggering amount of interesting material being published in Germany about the CCP arrest of Ai Weiwei. I seem to have gathered a great deal of newsprint into my orbit, am reading as much of it as fast as I can (Tagesspiegel-Stuttgart Zeittung-Suddeutscher Zeitung-Die Zeit-Frankfurt Allgemeine, etc.), and hope to have something more fertile soon in this space on the subject of Ai Weiwei.
And Tacheles, the old Haus der Technik, the imminently to be destroyed artist cluster!
“Warte nur, warte nur, balde ruhest du auch….” – Goethe, Night Song of the Wanderer