Front Page of the Day
Posted by Eric Mu on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 2:30 PM
Most of today's newspapers ran with the story of Cai Mingchao, the collector who announced yesterday that although he had submitted the winning bids for two bronze animal heads taken from the Old Summer Palace, he would not be paying the 31.49 million euros.
In his announcement, Cai stated that "every Chinese would have done the same as I did. It's just that I got the opportunity. I have fulfilled my duty."
Cai's justification of his decision as a patriotic move has inspired polarized reactions among the public, leaving newspapers unable to agree for the moment whether Cai is a national hero or just a badass who doesn't play by the rules. With the big ideological issue unresolved, media conversations are largely devoted to utilitarian arguments about the gains and losses of the parties involved.
Some people criticize Cai for damaging the global image of the Chinese people by dishonestly bidding on items which he had no intention to buy. He may have damaged his future prospects at art auctions, but they believe that the consequences of defaulting on the payment will ultimately fall on the Chinese people as a whole by sabotaging their credibility.
Others believe that Cai made a smart move by successfully bringing the issue to a wider international audience, allowing the Chinese people's discontent to be heard. In addition, doing it at a high personal cost makes him nothing less than a hero.
As to rumors that Christie's still holds Cai's guarantee money and will claim it as a penalty, The Beijing News quotes one of Cai's friends who says that Cai was invited to the auction as a VIP and didn't pay any money in advance.
Cai has another excuse for not paying. Referring to an order issued by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage the day after the auction, he noted that documents must be provided to prove that all artifacts shipped into or out of China are from "legal" sources. Since China's government has deemed the two auctioned items to be illegal, Christie's would not be able to deliver them to Cai even if he paid for them.
Cai said, "As a Chinese, I have to comply with regulations made by China's government....If the two auctioned items cannot enter China, of course I won't pay."
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