‘Too late’ to stop China’s global influence, says Chinese artist Ai Weiwei


China’s influence has become so great that it can’t be effectively stopped now, dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei said. Mr. Ai famously designed the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but ran into serious problems after he spoke out against the Chinese government.

The artist and filmmaker believe that China today uses its immense economic power to impose its political influence.

“The West should really have worried about China decades ago. Now it’s already a bit too late, because the West has built its strong system in China and to simply cut it off, it will hurt deeply. That’s why China is very arrogant,” Mr. Ai said.

“It is a police state,” he said of the Beijing government.

Eventually, in 2015, he left China to come to the West. He lived first in Berlin, and last year settled in Cambridge.

China is already the world’s second-biggest economy, and is on course to overtake the US over the next decade or so. China’s influence in the world is becoming more and more obvious, at a time when America’s authority has visibly declined.

Today, China has a significant presence virtually everywhere on the globe. Any country which challenges its basic interests suffers for it.

Yet the outspoken and highly influential editor-in-chief of China’s Global Times newspaper, Hu Xijin, rejects any suggestion that China is an international bully.

“I want to ask you, when did China ever pressure any country to do anything against their will? It is the US that continues to carry out sanctions in the world, especially economic sanctions on so many countries. Which country do you know China has sanctioned?

“Did we ever sanction an entire country? Only on specific issues did we express our dissatisfactions, and only as a reaction when our country has been openly offended,” said Mr. Hu.

Yet China is currently involved in angry stand-offs with a whole range of countries: Taiwan, Australia, Japan, Canada, India (with whom China recently fought a violent border skirmish), Britain and of course the US.

Most foreign observers think that China’s aggressive behaviour in fact hides an underlying nervousness.

The Communist Party isn’t elected, so it has no way of knowing how much genuine support it has in China. It can’t be certain of surviving a serious crisis – a major economic collapse, for instance.

President Xi and his colleagues are haunted by the memory of how the old Soviet empire simply vanished between 1989 and 1991, because it lacked any support from ordinary citizens.

Mr. Hu doesn’t accept that a new Cold War has started. China’s dispute, he says, is basically with the US. He makes the point that President Donald Trump’s attacks on China are very much linked to the presidential election on 3 November, and his efforts to win it.

Indeed after the election, the atmosphere is likely to improve – whoever wins.

China is too big, too involved in everyone’s lives, for the US and its allies to remain in a permanent state of outright hostility towards it.

But that simply reinforces Mr. Ai’s warning that it’s now too late for the West to protect itself against China’s influence. (Source: BBC)