'You’re already in the authoritarian state': Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei criticizes US 'woke' culture

Ai Weiwei | Full Episode 11.12.21 | Firing Line with Margaret Hoover | PBS

“In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it,” Ai told “Firing Line” host Margaret Hoover, who asked him to elaborate.

oh I think we know it


We have our problems but I don’t think we have to worry quite as much about guanxi as the Chinese do.

Yearning for freedom can never be repressed-- it always finds expression in one form or another.

Key bit of the interview starts about 16 minutes in.
Ai Weiwei: "In many ways you are in the authoritarian state, you just don’t know it. "
Ai Weiwei: “Many things that happen today in the US can be compared to Cultural Revolution in China. Like people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness. That is very dangerous.”
Question from interviewer: What kind of political correct extremism?
Ai Weiwei: It is very philosophical. With today’s technology we know so much more than we really understand the information becomes jammed but we don’t really have the knowledge because we don’t work you don’t have to act on anything you think you are purified by certain ideas because you agree with it, That is posing dangers to society, to an extreme divided society.
Question from interviewer: Why do you think that’s happened here?
Ai Weiwei: I think for a long time the West’s material, We have much more than we needed. And that we are not caring about global situation. But, eventually, all the policies and the politics we play has to be examined under the global situation, such as China becoming a very powerful state. And how the West should deal with it.
Question from interviewer: How should the West deal with Chinese increased influence?
Ai Weiwei: In China we have a wisdom to deal with anything you have to be strong yourself. I don’t think the West is strong themself enough to deal with China.
Question from interviewer: In what sense is the West not strong enough?
Ai Weiwei: In many many ways if you can’t sense how - what a failure the West by lacking of vision or lacking of compassion in dealing with refugee situation, climate change, and also the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, So I don’t think the US has the ability to really examine the situation of its own moral and start behaving.

Side note: A quick look I couldn’t find a transcript so I typed my own. Sorry for any mistakes.

I agree completely with Ai Weiwei’s assessment of the US here.

My understanding is a few million people were murdered during the cultural revolution. I think I missed that happening in the US lately.

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“You people spend so much time focusing on woke ideas, you can’t deal with China.”
“So how should we deal with China?”
[list of woke ideas to be explored]


Further explanation because it seems people are missing his point. He is not using a Fox news definition of “political correctness.”

“A certain political correctness” = " information becomes jammed but we don’t really have the knowledge because we don’t work you don’t have to act on anything you think you are purified by certain ideas because you agree with it,"

What does he mean by you don’t have the knowledge because we don’t work?
An example, CPR can be lifesaving. CPR is is an emergency procedure consisting of chest compressions in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation. You can learn CPR by watching a 2 minute video. You can learn and practice CPR on a manikin by attending a class given by certified instructor. An EMT may perform CPR many times in the course of their duties. Which level of knowledge about CPR in the description above requires action?

Consider all the ideas, all the statements and definitions, political, social, moral, religious, economic that course through American society. Those ideas, whether left/ right, woke/unwoke, Dem/Rep, liberal/conservative, how do they get adopted, how are they supported? How many people have a strong opinion about CRT without really knowing what it is? So what do they think it means, and where did they get that meaning? How many people have a strong opinion about defunding the police without really knowing what it is? So what do they think it means, and where did they get that meaning? We debate immigration around here in reference to economics not the moral implications, the moral obligations we have to all humans.

we are purified by certain ideas because we agree with them

It doesn’t have to be that complicated. It has been the goal of Chinese propagandists for years now to make western liberal democracies seem less clearly good for individuals than single party communist systems.

Really? Your answer is US good, China bad. to his statements?

I googled him too. And it’s a strawman to misquote me and then complain it’s simplistic.

There are enough Chinese Americans/Immigrants in the US to make a fair assessment imo.

The bias is the same from the white americans who have never stepped foot in asia.

You’re right it was a strawman (or at least dismissive), I apologize. I found “It doesn’t have to be that complicated.” to a discussion about a statement that starts “It is very philosophical” that is specifically about information and knowledge to be overly simplistic and dismissive.

I think it is still up to Ai to provide one example of the US putting citizens in lockup for having a different opinion about the government. People having different opinions from others and being “canceled” in some way by society is not the same as a government doing it.

I will give him the benefit of the doubt when that is what Trump wanted to do to “bad people” like news reporters (but was given a Civics lesson).

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I agree and I believe in the video he says that. (I did not go back and check)

He says in his book “Young people in China today have no knowledge at all of the student protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and if they knew they might note even care, for they learn submission before they have developed an ability to raise doubts and challenge assumptions.”

When asked about the quote he says “Chinese government very sophisticated. They succeed in every way for propaganda, They believe if they keep presenting the untruthful conclusion, the history will also write that way. And all the young generation they have no other way to even raise the question or challenge this conclusion from the government. So basically the whole generation or generations of a Chinese majority will be on the side of the government which is a pity.”

I guess i did go back and check.

"In many ways you are in the authoritarian state, you just don’t know it. "

“one example of the US putting citizens in lockup for having a different opinion about the government.”

Many ways not equal to one specific way.

TIL, Billie Eilish was born in 2001.

Why we talking about tiananman square still
McCarthyism wasn’t so glorious either

What are those “many ways”? I get that Ai might not have full command of English and that you do not have full command of transcribing, but, please, something.
Otherwise he can STFU (or that we can simply stop listening to him).

So you see no way America is authoritarian? None. Here I’ll help.

"Authoritarianism" from wikipedia

Authoritarianism is a form of government characterized by the rejection of political plurality, the use of a strong central power to preserve the political status quo , and reductions in the rule of law, separation of powers, and democratic voting.[1] Political scientists have created many typologies describing variations of authoritarian forms of government.[1] Authoritarian regimes may be either autocratic or oligarchic in nature and may be based upon the rule of a party or the military.[2][3]

In an influential 1964 work,[4] the political scientist Juan Linz defined authoritarianism as possessing four qualities:

  1. Limited political pluralism, realized with constraints on the legislature, political parties and interest groups.
  2. Political legitimacy based upon appeals to emotion and identification of the regime as a necessary evil to combat “easily recognizable societal problems, such as underdevelopment or insurgency.”
  3. Minimal political mobilization, and suppression of anti-regime activities.
  4. Ill-defined executive powers, often vague and shifting, which extends the power of the executive.[5][6]

Look past R vs D and look at the bigger picture, the things, ideas, and governmental actions that get bipartisan approach, that the media doesn’t seem to think deserves the lead.

Thanks, I too apologize for being equally dismissive. I don’t think it’s unfair to challenge the corruption that takes place in the US and talk about how we can improve things (in fact there was a recent Freakonomics podcast on this very topic), I think I’m just a little sensitive to the notion of making large equivalencies between the Chinese political system and western liberal democracies (where clearly the US has not proven itself to be the most liberally democratic one most recently which is partly why I make an effort to zoom out a bit).

We certainly have significant blemishes, the Japanese internment camps being one, but it’s a very bold statement to claim the US is some form of authoritarian state while I still have pretty strong freedom of speech protections. In fact part of the trouble almost seems that freedom of the press is so broad that Tucker Carlson can be a pseudo reporter.