Opinion Brief

Will China regret arresting Ai Weiwei?

The Chinese government has been widely condemned for its detention of the noted artist on suspicion of "economic crimes"

It's been almost two weeks since one of China's most famous artists, the maverick prankster Ai Weiwei, was detained by his government for "economic crimes." Best known for his work on Beijing's "Bird Nest" Olympic Stadium, Ai had openly mocked China's autocratic rulers for some time, and seemed impervious to censorship. But, as the Chinese "Big Chill" continues, Ai has now become the government's most notorious detainee. Will the widespread Western condemnation of Ai's arrest hurt China's push to be recognized as a global superpower?

This has renewed opposition to Chinese autocracy: The detention of Ai has "put a global spotlight on the current bout of repression," says Austin Ramzy at TIME. The U.S., Europe, and Australia have all "raised his case," and the censorship of free thought in China has the world's attention. "It's an irony that Ai would appreciate: His criticisms of the Chinese state can be heard loudest now that he can't be heard at all.""The activist artist of China"

Change is imminent, and China knows it: The brutal nature of China's crackdown on Ai and others, says The Economist, shows that its leaders are nervous. Political change is "imminent." Next year, a new generation of politicians will take over the country, and the old guard is worried that those "aggrieved" at the state would "represent a potent force" if they coalesced. The West must continue to hold China to account. "Speaking out might just help to constrain the regime's behavior.""China's crackdown"

There are many ways to suppress speech: "In a story echoing Ai's that went almost unnoticed," says Nicole Gelinas at the Los Angeles Times, the consumer giant Unilever was asked by Beijing's authorities to stifle a price raise — and it did. Prices, too, are an "expression of free speech." Distorting the price of global goods could affect the U.S. economy — which could finally cause the West to wake up and take action."China gags economic speech too"

Recommended

Watch a BBC newscaster explain the U.S. ivermectin boom
Ros Atkins
Through the Looking Glass

Watch a BBC newscaster explain the U.S. ivermectin boom

Expert predicts 'very hard' period between U.S., France following Australian deal
Payne, Blinken, and Austin.
rough patch

Expert predicts 'very hard' period between U.S., France following Australian deal

Biden at his best and worst
President Biden.
Picture of Damon LinkerDamon Linker

Biden at his best and worst

Putin reveals the Kremlin is awash in COVID-19 cases
Vladimir Putin
'not one or two'

Putin reveals the Kremlin is awash in COVID-19 cases

Most Popular

Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer hoping 'not to get canceled'
Leon Bennett/Getty Images
'what have I done in the last three months'

Emmys host Cedric the Entertainer hoping 'not to get canceled'

How Newsom ran away with the recall
Gavin Newsom.
Picture of David FarisDavid Faris

How Newsom ran away with the recall

Lindsey Graham boosts Afghanistan's anti-Taliban resistance behind the scenes
Lindsey Graham.
get the word out

Lindsey Graham boosts Afghanistan's anti-Taliban resistance behind the scenes