"He will pay a price for his special choice, which is the same in any society," the editorial stated.
The state-run paper said Ai was engaged in "legally ambiguous activities," adding that Chinese law "won't bend to mavericks."
The Global Times editorial Wednesday blasted "Western governments and human rights institutions" for calling for his release.
It accused them of "reckless collision against China's basic political framework and ignorance of China's judicial sovereignty to exaggerate a specific case," and failing to find out "the truth."
"The West's behavior aims at disrupting the attention of Chinese society and attempts to modify the value system of the Chinese people," the Global Times said.
The Chinese-language version of the article is harsher, saying criticism from the West is the reason Chinese people "loathe" it.
Ai has been missing since Sunday. Almost immediately after he was detained when trying to board a flight to Hong Kong, his studio was raided by police, who reportedly took hard drives and computers and occupied the space.
The Washington Post's William Dobson writes this morning that we shouldn't expect an explanation from China about its rationale behind its apparent capture of Ai:
It is quite probable that the regime is attempting to redraw the red lines of what will or will not be tolerated, and sending a message to its most vocal critics that the old rules no longer apply. Ai may be the son of one of China’s most revered poets and well known the world over, but the Chinese Communist Party is making clear that none of this guarantees his safety. In the end, the party will not clarify its purpose because it believes the obscure and arbitrary nature of its repression creates even more fear for those who would contemplate speaking out. If the targets of its repression cannot know when they will be targeted, how can anyone else?Image: Ai stencil via Drains to Bay.