How state media used to report on Ai Weiwei

Led by the Global Times, a spin-off of the CCP’s official People’s Daily, Chinese media have recently launched a character attack against artist and blogger Ai Weiwei (艾未未), who remains in custody after being detained in Beijing for unspecified “economic crimes” on April 3. In its lead editorial on April 15, Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper criticized Chinese state media for its character attack on Ai Weiwei, arguing that authorities had employed “a chain of actions outside the law, doing further damage to an already weak system of laws, and to the overall image of the country.”

But as journalist Pang Jiaoming (庞皎明) has pointed out on through Twitter over the past two days, state media were not always so unkind to Ai Weiwei, who has only lately been broad-brushed as a deviant and a plagiarist. Pang shares three articles from various spin-offs of the official People’s Daily in recent years that dealt sympathetically with Ai Weiwei and his work.

The first piece is a December 28, 2005, piece appearing in Market News (市场报). The second is an August 14, 2009, piece appearing in Global People (环球人物) and in the overseas edition of People’s Daily. The last is another 2009 piece appearing in Economic Weekly (中国经济周刊). All are publications under the banner of People’s Daily.

Oh, how the times and political winds change. And state media can be trusted to accommodate them.

[ABOVE: Ai Weiwei appears in the overseas edition of People’s Daily in August 2009.]

7 Comments to “How state media used to report on Ai Weiwei”

  1. ltlee says:


    Sorry to inform you that I did not receive 5 mao. The lack of factual basis and logic is quite obvious. So I did not need to spend a lot of time.

    In addition, I gathered that independent thinking is good against Alzheimer. Have you tried to think independently lately? If not, give it a try. While I cannot say independent thinking and independent judgement will make one a better thinker if one had been brain washed by the press, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

  2. AsiaSecuPol says:

    Just read the interesting post and had to go through the comments below. I feel that there’s only one question that remains unanswered. ‘ltlee’: how can you put so much effort into commenting if you only get 5 mao?

  3. ltlee says:

    Thank you for responding.
    First of all, let me clarify one thing. I don’t know Mr Ai or Mr Bandurski. I have no personal issue with them. I am, in Hong Kongers’ parlance 就事论事.

    Your response has generated several questions. May be you can clarify.
    “… state-controlled media changes character to serve the purposes
    of the state.”

    1. Is this so called “changes characters to serve the purposes of the state” your subjective attribution? Could it be proven objectively speaking?

    For argument’s sake, let us say the Chinese media does have an agenda. So what? Every human being including journalist has his or her agenda. Hence every article of every press, be it “free press” or “guided press” is written to suit someone or some organziation’s purpose, most of the time, if not all the time. Maximize profit, the first to get out some news, and etc. Why is it an issue here? If having an agenda is an issue, why not examine yourself first. Did Mr. Bandurski not written his commentary to serve his own private agenda? How about you? How about me? Well, I write to seek answers from you guys.

    2. More important, why should a common reader like me care about the writer’s agenda. I have no stake in Mr Ai. I know close to nothing about him before he was detained. The articles which links were provided by this site and you give me a picture of Mr Ai, both the brighter side and the darker side. I become more informed about Mr Ai. I have no problem with anyone’s agenda.

    2. When is a character attack a character attack?
    I cannot read mind. Hence I cannot decide with any certainty that the state meida published to attack Ai’s character, I will limit myself to two things: Is the article factual? Is the fact presented relevant? Since no one has yet disputed the article on factual ground, I would assume it is factual. In addition, I find the fact relevant if Ai is going to be face criminal charge.

    3. “… suggests that Mr. Ai has acted outside of the law even though he has not, as far as we know, been charged with anything.”
    Please clarify the above. Did you mean Mr Ai had not acted outside the law in the U.S.? Or did you mean Mr Ai had not acted outside of the law in China? Please also tell how do you reach your conclusion. Do you know Mr Ai personally? Did you do a research on him?

  4. d says:

    I was unaware that anyone actually reads these newspapers for anything other than comedic value or as a weather vane of the Party’s every-schizophrenic policy.

    The People’s Daily, Global Times and everything else under that media umbrella have been so thoroughly discredited that no one – even the most ardent of Party supports – reads these expecting to get “news.” Their subscriber base exists only because virtually every company is compelled to buy several yearly subscriptions to keep the government tit ballooned with milk. The paper it prints end up as coasters, toilet paper or, in the poorest areas, wallpaper.

    One thing I do like about this post is it offers further proof that The Memory Hole doesn’t function the way they wish it would in the age of the Internet.

  5. jim says:


    I think the implication of Mr. Bandurski’s post is clear. The reporting of Mr Ai & his activities in state-controlled media changes character to serve the purposes of the state.

    It is right to call the Global Times article a ‘character attack’ because the context (that the law should not change for individuals) suggests that Mr. Ai has acted outside of the law even though he has not, as far as we know, been charged with anything.

    Additionally – in case you thought I was endorsing the article I linked to, I would like to assure you that I was highlighting it as a lamentable and cowardly piece of journalism.

  6. ltlee says:

    Question to Mr. David Bandurski:
    When is a character attack a character attack?

    As far as I know, no one is 100% saintly or 100% evil. Everyone has his brighter side and his darker side. According to the posted links, it is clear that China’s state media were not always so unkind to Ai Weiwei. So what? Are you saying media could only elucidate Ai’s brighter and not his darker side?

    Rather than pigeonholing the issue as one of character attack, can you comment on the factual side of the issue?

    For example, the following is excerpted from url link

    which was kindly provided by another poster.

    “The interview, widely circulated on the Internet, disclosed details of Ai Weiwei’s 12 years of living in New York from 1983 when he left without finishing his studies at the elite Beijing Film Institute.

    Ai said that he was deeply involved in East New York’s then crime-laden communities and was enchanted by going to rallies, protests and confrontations on various causes.

    “I am addicted to being threatened. When the power pays attention to you, you feel like you are being recognized,” Ai told the paper.

    Ai’s erratic behavior also confused many of his friends and acquaintances.

    In his memoir, Feng Xiaogang, China’s famous movie director, recalled the dangerously exciting moments he shared with Ai in the States in the early 1990s, including purposely trying to cause a highway car crash.

    “Ai filled my life with wildness, mounting the urge to break the system. If I was not cautious in nature, the consequence would be hard to imagine,” Feng said.”

    Is Ai’s perchant for risk verging on criminality factual?

  7. jim says:

    A separate character assassination disguised as ‘news’ was published on

    Irrespective of whether you like the man or his art, I find this kind of rather depressing and more than a little bit scary.

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