In He Xie, Ai metaphorically represents the restriction of individual expression and freedom of speech in Chinese society. He xie, literally “river crab,” also sounds like the word for “harmonious,” which is part of the Chinese Communist Party slogan “The realization of a harmonious society.” He xie has thus come to refer to online censorship and the restriction of individual freedom of expression in Chinese society.
In November 2010, Chinese authorities announced that Ai’s new studio in Shanghai would be demolished. In response, Ai invited guests via Twitter to a feast of ten thousand river crabs to protest the government’s control of information. Placed under house arrest for his actions, he was unable to attend his own feast.