Guobin Yang, author of The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online, was part of a discussion on the New York Times website about the recent imprisonment of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (his sculpture is pictured above).
In his piece, “Moving Past Manifestos,” Guobin Yang discusses the ways in which Ai Weiwei represents a new type of public intellectual. Whereas before 1989, intellectuals “viewed themselves as the moral authority charged with the mission of educating the people and saving the nation,” their style is now mocking and irreverent. Thus, while no longer idealistic, artists and intellectuals like Ai Weiwei “are more likely to take on political roles as part of their personal style and expression.”
Guobin Yang concludes by arguing that the new type of intellectuals have “abandoned the high-flown modes of protest typical of the 20th century. These new political styles indicate both the diminishing role of traditional academic intellectuals and the changing styles of activism in the age of global media.”