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A little bird told me

This autumn, Ai Weiwei asked his 170,000 Twitter followers what the future of China would be. Their answers create a fascinating portrait of the country.

Ray of Hope @ssg2006

The political system of China will certainly change, perhaps within the next ten years. Whether it will be federal or otherwise is yet to be determined. No hope for political reform. No Straight forward way ahead. There will be bloodshed. When I think of it, I feel very afraid.

Scott Hu @slipknothooh

Historical development is definitely guided by its own rules; and China is no exception. The larger the country, the more inappropriate is the totalitarian system. My attitude towards the future of China is a positive one. The internet will bring unimpeded expression, people will be able to express themselves peacefully, rationally and in order, education will offer children a multitude of opinions and choices, and only criminals will be in prison, not prisoners of conscience. Although it is a painful process, hopefully it’s not just fool’s talk.

Westmoon @westmoon

In the future, China’s main contradictions – the political status quo and citizens’ needs – will intensify. Simple or incremental reform cannot come from such a rigid and corrupt system as that in China.
I believe that political revolution driven by the majority of the population will be inevitable in the future.

Hesuoge (You Jingyou) @nodig123

China’s transformation will be filled with violence and unrest. After the fall of the Chinese Communist Party, the years of poisonous education will have dire consequences.

Rosetta Elf @rosettaelf

There will be no difference between the future of China and today, only more “50-cents” and idiots causing more and more people to emigrate. Weibo will probably be banned permanently as it’s too dangerous.

jeffery @Jeffery1st

China’s future? This issue is too big. I’m an ordinary person who just wants to make money, take care of my family and move to another country one day. The situation in China has nothing to do with me. The problem is too small – there are so many people in this world, so many sights to see, life is so beautiful. So why would I stick with China? There are too many books to read, too many people to meet, too many fun things to do. China, stay away from me.

Qiangnei Youren @PasserbyA

We will die slowly and miserably . . . I’m pessimistic :(

Shen Dong @shyd19711

China’s future is like driving on a highway with the scenery unchanged. Don’t expect to see different scenery unless the car overturns.

Zhang Hali @zhhl93

Waiting for Chinese democracy is like someone desperately needing to go for a piss, but his house is on fire and his only solution is to wait for a downpour.

Andrew @WangFenghao

China’s future? At the top there are corrupt officials, at the bottom is the mob. Alas, I can’t see a future yet.

eastsea.zhang @eastsea1988

How do I see China’s future? I do not pay much attention to China’s future as I hold temporary residence here. You know what, I was born in this country, I am a citizen of this country, but I work in a city other
than my home town, so I have to have a temporary resident’s permit. I am only temporarily living on this land, this annuls any philosophy or doctrines. On TV, they say this is a great regeneration. I just want to say, fuck! Fuck your mother.

Eric @Eric_Hoo

As the Chinese economy continues to decline, there will be more social conflicts. The voices calling for reform will become louder and louder. The Communist Party will either bury itself or be buried by public opinion after considerable selftorture. The trends of democracy and the rule of law are coming sooner rather than later.

Jay @jay6th

I do not feel hopeful that China will undergo deep reform. I feel that the lives of ordinary people will get worse and worse. I am worried that there will be a large-scale outbreak, similar to the Cultural Revolution.

Yaxue Cao @YaxueCao

Over the course of 63 years, the Chinese Communist Party has not done one positive thing (perhaps some may argue that the “reform and open up” policy was positive; however that was a self-rescuing last resort after decades of catastrophe). It profoundly ravaged China, and harmed every Chinese person. If it can gracefully withdraw from the political arena with minimal harm on the country
and the citizens, then we would be grateful. But what reason do I have to hope for that?

Darsting12leo @darsting12leo1

I think there is no future. I am not enjoying life, I am enduring life. If I had a chance I would certainly leave this country, but if I don’t have this chance I will continue to endure. I do not dare say any more, I am afraid of trouble finding me.

Tui 2 @twi215

Three words, “I don’t know”.

Mogu Mogu @autistichild

Whenever I think about the future of China, I feel an immense sense of loss and fear. There are too many unknown problems that will explode but I don’t know when. Some say that the next decade will be the darkest decade. I do not know if the decade after the next will be even darker. Time does not stop. I am a bit worried but at the same time I still hope that there will be a turning point.

Scott Hu @slipknothooh

After watching the documentary Wukan, I believe even more in my optimistic view of the future of China. All that talk of special circumstances of the nation and of the quality of the population is simply untenable when the citizens are demanding rights. Each event is as insignificant as a small bead when the scales are heavily weighted to one side. However, ten million beads together are enough to rebalance the scales of justice.

AICC @aiaijia

In many important affairs, China can progress from being a douche bag to a normal person. I hope this is not just a beautiful dream.

Wiedergeburt_ v @wiedergeburt_v

I think China does not have a good future, whether it’s the economy or the natural environment. So many tragic disasters have happened after 1949. If China is allowed a good future given all that, then the world is really unfair. When the Chinese begin to reflect on their mistakes, then China’s “good future” begins.

Maidou Hongliang @0721maidou

The economy will collapse within five years. In 30 years, we will catch a glimpse of freedom and democracy.

eilin @angeng8

I am full of confidence for China’s future. It is certainly filled with brightness, democracy, individual creativity, goodwill and good air. All in all, it will be the opposite of the present. I am only worried that this process will harm innocent people. I think that heaven above will give us power! God bless China!

Xiangfeng Ziyou Chui @sun22382001

No Chinese person could have predicted the birth of Twitter. Twitter and Weibo are God’s special gifts to the Chinese people, and will accelerate enlightenment among the Chinese people. China will be the same as the rest of the world and won’t be the odd one out. Although the path is very rocky and some people have already fled from the homeland, I will stay until death.

Kai @imlk

Mankind is a whole. Authoritarian regimes cannot stop internal and external conflicts bringing about a revolution. China will experience pain and turmoil, but I believe there will be a good future.

Jingtian Yibi @xzx2007

First of all, after nearly 30 years of so-called development, valuable natural resources have been depleted. What is left is pollution, which causes physical harm to people for the next 50 years or even longer. Secondly, 60 years of large-scale, systematic brainwashing means that at least two generations of people will continue to suffer from spiritual pollution that could not be eliminated in 50 years. Following from above: So it doesn’t matter which political party is in power, the mainland absolutely cannot see a future for the next 50 years. The only difference is the length of time it takes to clean up the physical and spiritual pollution.

Lu Yi Si @kaipitiaod

I firmly believe that our generation can create change. In the near future, those twittering in front of computers will change this nation completely.

@cholerisC (account deleted)

I can’t see the future. Brainwashing education, variety of toxic food, casual disembowelling, indiscriminate medical prescriptions – it’s an impossible environment to save. Our police are quick to fire shots and won’t spare a dead body . . . kicks. Our lovable reporters should be worth more than just writing fairy tales, what a fucking pity.

Chinese Velvet Revolution @AngryVelvet

1. China’s future movement towards democracy is likely triggered by mass incidents that spiral out of control. These will be countrywide, linked to food safety, environmental pollution and other issues. How
to link every separate incident to form a positive interaction so that any individual protest will immediately be supported across the country is the key point to consider.

Bolin @lilyxox3 7

How do you see the future of China? Fear, worry, deception, distress, collapse.

Di Hongming @hazhm009

When we picture the future of China it’s just like that US movie Batman: the Dark Knight Rises –we will never be able to escape the cycle of dictatorship. I am 39 years old and I will never see democracy.

Wuyang @fivesheep

There is a future but without hope. Overused environmental resources, an ageing population as a result of the one-child policy, a wide income gap as a result of the unfair distribution of wealth, as well as further erosion of the nation’s minds through the brainwashing education system. All these factors will continue to afflict the people of this country. These are problems that cannot be resolved by one wise dictator.

You are not my homeland @busharen

The future of China? I only know that China under totalitarian rule of the Chinese Communist Party has no future. If you must talk about the future, that would be a complete collapse of the current system, replaced by a more suitable living environment for the people of China. All of this will be based on the premise of individual consciousness, to think of oneself as a real person. That’ll be China with a future.

Gongmin Xiaobiao @oubiaofeng
China’s future is for power not to kidnap rights but to serve these rights, to maximise rights for every citizen. Otherwise, China’s future is just a false proposition.

Guo Daxia @daxa

“Future” is a word that invokes unlimited possibility and space for imagination. However, in a prison deprived of rights, freedom, privacy and dignity, “Future” is a luxurious but hopeless word. It implies that you need to prepare yourself for old age and death. You are constantly facing death, disaster and despair . . .

This article first appeared in the 22 October 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Ai Weiwei guest-edit