Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei - "I wish Obama luck on election day"

"Obama seems more reliable than his opponent," says Chinese artist and activist as America goes to the polls

Ai Weiwei has chosen election day in the US to proclaim that the country should be proud of its record on democracy. In a piece for the CNN website Ai says: "In China there is little understanding of American society, or its politics. People stand on the sidelines of the Republican vs. Democrat debate; they don't pick up on the nuances of the discussion, and they can't tell the difference between the parties' positions.

"Personally, I think Obama seems more reliable than his opponent, even though I'm disappointed with his stance on China's human rights record. And although his administration has done very little to further rights here, I still wish him luck on Election Day."

Mainstream Chinese media aren't reporting on the U.S. elections, nor are mainstream websites, which Ai claims "is exactly how the Chinese government wants it. Media coverage at all regarding the United States rarely strays from local or regional events and their relations to China, like the current dispute between Tokyo and Beijing over the Diaoyu Islands," he says. "As for the candidates, people know Obama as a personality, but few could tell you what his government has accomplished in the last four years -- and Mitt Romney remains a complete unknown."

Ai calls the candidates' campaigns "mere showcases, extravagant yet empty - and the time, money and energy spent on the grand spectacle could have been used to solve specific problems for Americans. "Regardless," he says, "Americans should still be proud. It is essential for politicians and leaders to have open discussions about their policies, character, and beliefs. It is the key to public trust and understanding in an open society. I don't think people like the way the debates and elections are designed, but at least they're an outlet for people to make a stand. In contrast, all major decisions in China are made behind closed doors. Here the public knows very little about who their politicians are, the decisions they have made and what they believe in. In a world that demands social change, this approach cannot survive forever."

Ai reserved some opprobrium for the candidates' emphasis on domestic issues during their respective campaigns saying, "For all the tough talk about China during the presidential debates, Romney and Obama evaded any mention of China's suspect human rights record, corruption, and rule of law. By not tackling these controversial topics, the candidates are protecting a strategic partnership with China at the expense of essential human values and beliefs." Read the full transcript at CNN