From Ai Weiwei at The Daily Beast::
Beijing is two cities. One is of power and of money. People don’t care who their neighbors are; they don’t trust you. The other city is one of desperation. I see people on public buses, and I see their eyes, and I see they hold no hope. They can’t even imagine that they’ll be able to buy a house. They come from very poor villages where they’ve never seen electricity or toilet paper.There are several things Weiwei outlines here which portend the collapse of a society. Pulling stitches out of the bodies of people who can not afford their medical bills indicates a lack of the kind of trust and care for the common man which inevitably leads to a dog eat dog, feeding frenzy type of mentality. As Natan Sharansky has so eloquently pointed out, Fear Societies inevitably break down as people find it impossible to cooperate with each other.
Every year millions come to Beijing to build its bridges, roads, and houses. Each year they build a Beijing equal to the size of the city in 1949. They are Beijing’s slaves. They squat in illegal structures, which Beijing destroys as it keeps expanding. Who owns houses? Those who belong to the government, the coal bosses, the heads of big enterprises. They come to Beijing to give gifts—and the restaurants and karaoke parlors and saunas are very rich as a result.
Beijing tells foreigners that they can understand the city, that we have the same sort of buildings: the Bird’s Nest, the CCTV tower. Officials who wear a suit and tie like you say we are the same and we can do business. But they deny us basic rights. You will see migrants’ schools closed. You will see hospitals where they give patients stitches—and when they find the patients don’t have any money, they pull the stitches out. It’s a city of violence.
The worst thing about Beijing is that you can never trust the judicial system. Without trust, you cannot identify anything; it’s like a sandstorm. You don’t see yourself as part of the city—there are no places that you relate to, that you love to go. No corner, no area touched by a certain kind of light. You have no memory of any material, texture, shape. Everything is constantly changing,
... there are many hidden spots where they put people without identity. With no name, just a number. They don’t care where you go, what crime you committed. They see you or they don’t see you, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. There are thousands of spots like that. Only your family is crying out that you’re missing. But you can’t get answers from the street communities or officials, or even at the highest levels, the court or the police or the head of the nation. My wife has been writing these kinds of petitions every day, making phone calls to the police station every day. Where is my husband? Just tell me where my husband is. There is no paper, no information.
This city is not about other people or buildings or streets but about your mental structure. If we remember what Kafka writes about his Castle, we get a sense of it. Cities really are mental conditions. Beijing is a nightmare. A constant nightmare.
Additionally, China's lack of a paper trail in the Judicial system is a sign not only of decadence but of a type of chaos which is evidence of an unsustainable society.
China is a Potemkin village of a nation, where human beings are imported in and out of large cities to build the appearance of opulence, while behind the cardboard structures, humans live in fear, anger, distrust, and animalistic squalor.
One day, perhaps very soon, the wind will shift, and this entire facade of a nation will blow over, and we will be left with the vision of a billion human beings squatting in a surreal, shape-shifting concentration camp of a "society"; a humanitarian crisis right out of the Matrix.
How will we clean up such a mess?