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Love the future

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爱未来 (ài wèilái): love the future

“Ai Weiwei” and “love the future” were blocked on Weibo in April 2011. (Source: Weibo)

Love the future” is a coded reference to Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei (艾未未 Aì Wèiwei)

The term came into use after Ai's detention in April 2011. In Mandarin, Ai’s surname sounds the same as the word “love,” and his given name “Weiwei” (未未) can be converted into the word “future” (未来 Wèi lái) by adding two small strokes to the second character. After the phrase “love the future” became a cipher for Ai, “future” was for a time a sensitive word on the Chinese Internet.

One of the designers behind the iconic Bird’s Nest Stadium, Ai was prominent in the art world long before he became a thorn in the Chinese government’s side. He started to rankle the authorities in May 2008 when he led a project to collect the names of children who died in the Sichuan earthquake. Active on Twitter, In February of 2011 he tweeted about the calls for a “jasmine revolution” in China modeled after the protests in Egypt. After receiving frequent visits from the police and seeing the destruction of his Shanghai studio in late 2010, and in the midst of a crackdown reflecting government anxieties over the Arab Spring, Ai attempted to leave for Hong Kong on April 3. He was detained while boarding his flight and disappeared for 81 days. Once back home and under surveillance, he didn’t stay silent for long.

New Yorker China correspondent Evan Osnos profiled Ai in 2010. Edward Wong of the New York Times wrote an account of Ai’s detention on May 26, 2012.