Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

China in Documentary Film (Leavey Library): Economy


Becoming a Superpower: Deng Xiapong's Reforms and Their Legacy 
"What forces drove Chinese capitalism forward and enabled a generation of innovators and business leaders to emerge? Can the tragedy of Tiananmen Square be understood in terms of China's economic, rather than political, development? What is Deng Xiaoping's legacy today? Explores the maturation and impact of Deng's policies. Interviewees include Chen Yizi, a former government economic adviser; Wan Runnan, founder of Sitong Electronics (which, like many other Chinese companies, flourished under Deng's reforms); Dr. Michael Marti, author of China and the legacy of Deng Xiaoping.; and others. Includes archival footage.

Bitter Money =  Ku qian
"The people in Wang Bing's Bitter Money live in filthy, cramped apartments, stare at their phones for far too long, spend time on their balconies overlooking drab streets in which all the buildings look the same, and work long hours for little pay in noisy and stiflingly hot garment factories. The city of Huzhou, where the film is shot, is home to 18,000 clothing factories. They are staffed by about 300,000 workers, many of them migrants from rural areas in the surrounding provinces. Bitter Money follows a handful of these workers, both at work where they may labor for more than 12 hours a day and in their off-hours, as they hang around shabby dorms drinking, dreaming of home, worrying about getting paid, and trying to decide whether their jobs are worth keeping..."

China Decade
"Delves deeper to examine the challenges faced by China and how the country is handling the rising expectation of its people."

China, Triumph and Turmoil
"In this three-part series, Harvard University history professor Niall Ferguson travels throughout china to find out how a fifth of humanity can live under a Communist government with a capitalist economy, speaking with survivors of Mao's regime, ardent young nationalists, new billionaires, and those defending China's rural poor."

China's Challenges
"Host Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who knows China's leaders personally and wrote the book How China's Leaders Think, takes us inside China through five documentaries that reveal the critical issues that China's new leaders face. China's Challenges focuses on current issues including China's economy, society, innovation, politics and values. These documentaries provide real insight into the difficulties and challenges that have arisen from China's soaring development and shows the efforts the Chinese government, as well as the society as a whole, have made to solve the problems"

China's Convenience Store War
"This program takes viewers into the heart of Shanghai's dog-eat-dog convenience store industry, focusing on the state-owned Hao De chain and its foreign-owned competitors."

The Chinese Mayor
"Once the thriving capital of Imperial China, the city of Datong now lies in near ruins. Not only is it the most polluted city in the country, it is also crippled by decrepit infrastructure and even shakier economic prospects. But Mayor Geng Tanbo plans to change all that, announcing a bold, new plan to return Datong to its former glory, the cultural haven it was some 1,600 years ago. Such declarations, however, come at a devastatingly high cost. Thousands of homes are to be bulldozed, and a half-million of its residents (30 percent of Datong's total population) will be relocated under his watch. Whether he succeeds depends entirely on his ability to calm swarms of furious workers and an increasingly perturbed ruling elite. The Chinese Mayor captures, with remarkable access, a man and, by extension, a country leaping frantically into an increasingly unstable future."

Cotton Road: A Supply Chain Journey = Mian hua zhi lu
"Americans consume nearly 20 billion new items of clothing each year. Yet few of us know how our clothes are made, much less who produces them. Cotton Road follows the commodity of cotton from South Carolina farms to Chinese factories to illuminate the work and industrial processes in a global supply chain."

Heavy Metal
"For more then twenty years, tons and tons of metallic and electronic waste from all around the world has been transported to a Chinese town called Fengjang, in the south of Shanghai. Around 50,000 migrant workers have formed a real army to dismantle these metallic wastes. These 'green soldiers' decompose, cut, split and recycle, with the most rudimentary means, almost 2 million tons of garbage every year. ... [T]hey work hard, bear an incredible precariousness and put in danger their own health due to the simply unacceptable working conditions. As the recognizable heaps of metal continue to pile up they provide a deeply moving image of a worldwide consumer society."

Opening the Door: How Deng Xiaoping Transformed China's Economy
"Given the vitality of China's economy today, it is difficult to imagine that Deng Xiaoping's early reforms met any resistance -- but they did. This program examines Deng's transformation from a Maoist functionary into the leader who broke from pure Communism and, despite the highest of stakes, reinvented his country. Helping viewers understand Deng's creation of China's Special Economic Zones, the film features commentary from Chinese journalists and political insiders -- as well as from Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Carter administration, and Sidney Rittenberg, an American expatriate in China during the Mao and Deng years."

Railroad of Hope
"Documentary film about the yearly migration of Chinese peasants to XinJiang Autonomous Region for the cotton harvest. The travelers are interviewed as they wait for hours or days to catch a train, for some it's the first trip of their lives."

The Real Leap Forward:  Scaling Up Poverty Reduction in China
"China is fast becoming one of the world's industrial powerhouses. But hundreds of millions of Chinese still live in poverty, far from the coastal regions generating the new wealth. As elsewhere in the world, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. The Chinese government is trying to address the problem -- through targeted poverty reduction programs. The Leap Forward reports on China's efforts to spread the new social benefits beyond the city limits-- and asks how well they're succeeding."

"A look at the vast changes that have taken place in Chinese society, including a massive migration from the countryside to the cities, the rise of a prosperous new class of businesspeople, millions of new college graduates competing for a shrinking number of jobs, and the neglect of China's largest population group, its rural peasants. Filmed in a purely observational style, with no narration or commentary."

We the Workers = Xiongnian zhipan
"Shot over a six-year period (2009-2015) in the industrial heartland of south China, a major hub in the global supply chain, this film follows labor activists as they find common ground with workers, helping them negotiate with local officials and factory owners over wages and working conditions. Threats, attacks, detention and boredom become part of their daily lives as they struggle to strengthen worker solidarity in the face of threats and pressures from the police and their employers. In the process, we see in their words and actions the emergence of a nascent working class consciousness and labor movement in China."

When China Met Africa
"A historic gathering of over fifty African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr. Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming. In northern Zambia, Mr. Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company, is upgrading Zambia's longest road. Pressure to complete the road on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out. Meanwhile Zambia's Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment. Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare--pointing to a radically different future, not just for Africa, but also for the world."