One of the more painful growing pains of globalization comes from the clash of cultural values that ensues when formerly isolated and disparate cultures meet on the global stage. Recent decades have seen renewed tensions between western-style democracy and radical islam, between the US and China, between those who support multiculturalism and those who fear its threat to cultural traditions.
Internally, Modern China embodies in microcosm the tensions of globalization. Its state-run, tightly controlled economy is rapidly modernizing, making it difficult for the ruling party to control citizens' access to the internet and Western ideas of individual freedom. Yet the party is determined to do so, jailing dissidents and prosecuting citizens for threatening to undermine the authority of the state.
Artist Ai Weiwei, named 2011's "most powerful artist in the world" by ArtReview magazine, is the flip side of this coin – a Beijing resident and a huge presence on the international stage, Ai regularly provokes the wrath of the Chinese government by exposing its hypocrisy and corruption. He has been detained, interrogated, sued, and harassed, but continues his all-out assault on state-sponsored oppression.