This week in review: Let us not forget how horrifying the Charleston shooting was; Chinese officials seize contraband meat that was packed 40 years ago; species are going extinct at unprecedented rates; the story of a globe-trotter cat; and the US wins 2 victories, one at the Women’s World Cup, and one on home turf by making same-sex marriage legal.
In many ways, China’s authoritarian way of exerting power seems incompatible with constitutionalism. A constitutional state follows an established pattern of governing principles and laws as defined in a constitution; and the concept of constitutionalism more generally encompasses the idea that institutions are to a certain degree democratic in their functioning, and that the state ensures the protection of basic rights.
In Imperial China, people involved in the agricultural sector constituted by far the largest part of the population. But like in many other civilizations, the divide between the ‘rural’ and the ‘urban’ was already entrenched. The aristocracy as well as middle-class urbanites also sought to distinguish themselves from the labor class, which was considered of lower worth. But on the other hand, the “stupidity” and simplicity of the peasantry inspired a rather idealized and romanticized view of rural life.
Ai Weiwei is one of the most, if not the most, famous Chinese contemporary artists in the West. A large part of his work can be qualified as provocative, defying the political order, social prudery, and going against the idea that ancient artifacts should be put in museums or sold at auctions. Ai Weiwei summarizes his attitude towards his art as such: “An artwork unable to make people feel uncomfortable or to feel different is not one worth creating.”
Pollution is a crucial issue in China, one that, in my opinion, will be decisive for the future of China. Local activists and initiatives, although they are generally limited in scope, can make a small difference that could turn into something bigger. For us in the West, we have to be more conscious of what we buy and how much we buy, and to take action to ask companies to upgrade their standards in all countries where they produce their goods.