The Politics Of Protest

Ian Johnson questions the end result of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei's provocations:

When I’ve described him to people outside the cocoon of China’s cosmopolitan elite, they usually ask me what he wanted. If it was just to show that the government could be a bully, no one thought that was news. Such a response may imply a lack of consciousness about individual rights and civil disobedience, and so partly validates Ai’s pessimistic view of China. But it also reveals a pragmatic sensibility among many ordinary Chinese: many of them seem to see their country as more than the corrupt police state that Ai was trying to expose with such vitriol, or at least think that there are better ways of channeling the frustrations about the government that they may well share with Ai.

Isaac Stone Fish looks at the forms of protest that do make news in China. He reports on animal rights activists saving a truckload of dogs from slaughter:

This burgeoning animal-rights activism, aided by the ease of Weibo communication, coexists not only with the braised dog stew found on menus across China but also with China's "take many prisoners" attitude toward human-rights activists. Over the past few months, dozens of outspoken lawyers, artists, and underground church pastors have been harassed, detained, or arrested; some activists say it's the most stifling environment since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. These arrests rarely make it into China's muzzled media. The dog saving, however, has been a very big story.