China's smash and grab timing
Back in October Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most celebrated artists, handed me nine hand made sunflower seeds from his vast exhibition in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. I’ve kept them in the ticket pocket of my jacket ever since.
Not long after he gave them to me, Ai Weiwei went home and soon found himself placed briefly under house arrest after trying to stage a satirical crab feast in protest against an order from the authorities that a studio he had built in Shanghai was to be torn down due to the “unlawful land” it had been built on. The order had come after the artist had made films about two individual who had run seriously foul of Chinese laws.
Out of sight out of mind, I’d forgotten about charming Ai Weiwei until last night. Indeed I’d been thinking instead about the man due to become China’s Prime Minister.
The great turbines of his jet airliner were already churning as the hammer blows began to rain down on Ai Weiwei’s studio in far away Shanghai. By 9.00pm last night, with Li Keqiang safely airborne Mr Wei’s studio had been smashed into fragments no bigger than the sunflower seeds he’d given me. What a charming juxtaposition. What control. The order to demolish had originally been issued last July, just as the new studio had been poised to open. Ai Weiwei’s exhibition was safely opened at Tate Modern by October. And now, with this high profile Chinese visit over too, so was Ai Weiwei’s studio.
Did David Cameron, William Hague, Alex Salmond, or anyone else who met China’s next Prime Minister ask about Mr Ai Weiwei?
Ahead of the visit we hacks asked what news conferences, press opportunities, and interviews were going to be possible with Li Keqiang. Answer: None. Oh, and did the Government think to guide the great Chinese leader toward Tate Modern’s doors?
UK trade and jobs, or Chinese human rights? Naturally, UK trade and jobs. Should we care?