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."
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.