A Chinese dissident now living in the West recently warned Americans that in many ways they are already living in an "authoritarian state" akin to Mao Zedong's infamous Cultural Revolution in China in the 1960s and 1970s, but they "just don't know it."
Ai Weiwei, an artist and frequent critic of China's stance on democracy and human rights, sat down with PBS reporter Margaret Hoover during a Friday interview on "Firing Line," during which he discussed his new book, "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows," and slammed the growth of "political correctness" in America.
During the interview, Hoover brought up a line from Weiwei's book in which the artist drew comparisons between Mao Zedong's nightly directives and former U.S. President Donald Trump's tweets.
"In your book, you were describing the directives of Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution that would be distributed publicly every night. And then you write — this is your quote — 'They served a function similar to Donald Trump's midnight tweets in office. They were the direct communication of a leader's thoughts to his devoted followers, enhancing the sanctity of his authority,'" Hoover said.
She asked, "Do you see Donald Trump as an authoritarian?"
In response, Weiwei said he didn't see Trump as an authoritarian, suggesting, "If you are authoritarian, you have to have a system supporting you. You cannot just be an authoritarian by yourself."
Then, moving on from Trump, Weiwei went on to claim that there are, in fact, semblances of an authoritarian state in America.
"But certainly, in the United States, with today's condition, you can easily have an authoritarian. In many ways, you're already in [an] authoritarian state. You just don't know it," he argued.
Ai Weiwei | Full Episode 11.12.21 | Firing Line with Margaret Hoover | PBSyoutu.be
When pressed, he added that "many things happening today in the U.S. can be compared to the Cultural Revolution in China," specifically citing "people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness."
"That is very dangerous," he stated.
"It's very philosophical," he continued. "With today's technology, we know so much more than we really understand. The information [has] become jammed. But we don't really have the knowledge. ... You just think you're purified by certain ideas that you agree with it."
This form of political correctness or societal groupthink "is posing dangers to society, to an extremely divided society," Weiwei warned.
Weiwei grew up in northwest China and, as an adult, investigated cover-ups and corruption associated with the Chinese government. In 2011, he was arrested on trumped-up "economic crimes" and held in secret detention for 81 days.
He is considered a world-renowned artist who discusses Chinese political and social issues through his numerous poems, sculptures, and public works.