Education is totally ruined—they [the government] never know how education should teach you to think; they just want to control everyone’s mind. They sacrifice everything just for stability, and [now are] trying to block information from the young generation. This produces a generation of young people who cannot meet the challenges, who are lacking in imagination, passion and courage. It is not a good picture for the future of this nation.
Why, exactly, is the government afraid of you?
My resistance is a symbolic gesture; it’s not just a struggle for myself, but to present certain common values. The secret police told me, everybody can see it but you, you’re so influential. But I think [their behavior] makes me more influential. They create me, rather than solve the problem.
When they demolished my studio outside Shanghai was demolished about a year ago , it made every young person —whether or not they liked me before—think I must be some kind of hero. Just in trying to maintain my own identity, it becomes more dramatic.
I think it [the government’s approach] is a kind of Cold War thinking; they are ignoring the true argument—trying to avoid discussion of principles. It may work for short time, but not for a long time. The society has to become more democratic, [and allow] more freedom, otherwise it cannot survive.
Why do you choose to live in China and in Beijing specifically?
I don’t have to stay in China, but I tell myself I have to stay. There are so many unsolved problems here. There are no heroes in modern China.
What do you think of the new architecture in Beijing? Is it grand, or tacky?
I think if the CCTV building really burns down [it caught on fire in 2009] it would be the modern landmark of Beijing. It would represent a huge empire of ambition burning down.
What, if anything, makes you optimistic about China’s future?