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To move on from oppression, China must recognise itself

Ai Weiwei's leader for his momentous guest edit.

It is a challenge, and also a privilege, to have the op­portunity to guest-edit the New Statesman. The magazine has such a long and celebrated history, it is so highly respected, and so many intelligent people have put such effort into it over nearly a century. Like all written publications and works of literature and art, the magazine reflects a human condition. I am thrilled to have the chance to be associated with it.

The only thing I can contribute to this edition of the New Statesman is the content. I chose to dedicate my issue of the magazine to China, its people, its history, its culture, its current situation and its future. My country has to recognise itself, which is a challenge to anybody at any stage in life. Right now, in China, we are living in conditions that no other generation has ever experienced – of great economic growth and expansion, but also great oppression of freedom of speech and human rights.

We are living in a time of change (as is the west, in a different way). China – its government and people – has to develop a true understanding of the specific conditions of the country today, and so reinterpret our position in the world. Over the years, I have made many efforts to do this – through art, through films, through investigations, through direct action in the face of government oppression – but I still don’t have a clear answer to the problems facing our country. This is why I want to share my thoughts, and those of the other contributors to this issue, with a wider audience.

The future of China is uncertain. I believe that the world is becoming a better place, largely thanks to advances in technology which help us to address so many of the problems that we face. The expanding use of social media and the internet will help China become a more conscious and intelligent country, but the future remains uncertain. There are problems ahead which we can’t even identify yet, and it is vital to be prepared and to meet these challenges in every way we can.

Whatever the future problems are, I believe that, both as an in­ternational society and as an individual, you have to see the human problem as one. We share this planet and we have been divided for too long, for ridiculous reasons. Now, we have to come together and say, as one, that we share the same values, that we can respect differences and that, together, we can create the best possible solutions.

If I have one message for you, the readers of the New Statesman magazine, whether you are reading this in English or in Mandarin, on the page or online, it is this: the only way we can be successful, in China and in life, is through greater communication and wider awareness, in constantly questioning our standards and our conditions. You, as readers, are part of this, you are active members of this family, and you can be proud of that.

We should all be proud of that.











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