By now, most people with at least a slight interest in China affairs would have heard about Ai Weiwei, the artist-dissident who was arrested recently. On the online world, he’s become a sort of celebrity, perceived as a beacon of courage and resistance against the evil, mighty Chinese communist regime. He’s done some good things like publicize government corruption as a major factor behind the damage of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Courage, I don’t doubt he has. But in a sense, has he become built up by a Western media heavily critical of China and desperate to hype up any kind of resistance to the government, no matter how insignificant (see the overblown coverage of the Jasmine “Revolution”). This piece tackles this question and rather than try to downplay Ai’s achievements or attack the West, takes a perceptivestance. That, Ai Weiwei, as brave as his actions have been and as on-the-mark as his criticisms of the regime are, does not represent the complete picture in China when it comes to liberties and progress. People may be getting angrier and more vocal at the authorities, but Ai Weiwei’s daring style is not the way that many Chinese want to take.


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