Ai Weiwei, Google and China


Today, the headlines about Google in China prompt me to post something about Ai Weiwei out of respect for his troubles. He has been all over the BBC today, talking about being censored online in China. In Beijing during 2008, I attended an event with Ai Weiwei and Norman Foster, which was about the new Beijing airport terminal Foster had built in time for the Games. Back then, Ai Weiwei had recently withdrawn from his role in the Opening ceremony of the Beijing Games out of concerns about human rights infringements taking place in China. He was accompanied by Steven Spielberg, who was confronted with protests over China's relationship with Darfur, led by Mia Farrow.

Ai Weiwei is an artist activist, who has been in the limelight for China digital censorship issues for years. The Guardian has a nice editorial on his life.

So, to my thoughts on Google in China. As @CharlieBeckett put it on BBC today 'Google isn't a charity'. If China don't enable Google to generate revenue, then it's not a political act that it withdraws, but a financial decision.

Of course, what makes this newsworthy is not really the financial aspects of the story though, but the realization that global culture has not yet arrived. It has taken the foremost digital organization to prove this, but regardless of how you feel about the limitations of the Great Chinese Firewall, we may do well just to sit and reflect on that for a moment.

Finally, here's a shot of Ai Weiwei taking pictures during the panel debate in Beijing reminds me of his playfulness.

Ai Weiwei @ 798 Beijing

and for poetic value, a shot of the photo book created for the airport terminal. It's called 'Becoming' and consists of Ai Weiwei's photography of the new terminal.

Andy MIah @ 798 Beijing