The People’s Republic of Capitalism

Yesterday I had the opportunity to watch Part 1 of Ted Koppel’s documentary series The People’s Republic of Capitalism on the Discovery Channel. Instead of going to Beijing and Shanghai, the normal stops for most first-time visitors to China, Koppel went to Chongqing, a city I have visited and written about.

The documentary is very intelligent and well-done, Koppel covers companies in the US who relocate their manufacturing to Chongqing, and the effect on the lives of the American workers who lose their jobs in the US, as well as the Chinese workers in the factory in Chongqing. He also compares how differently WalMart is viewed in China and the US. Koppel does a very good job of providing context about the effects of globalization, which mix good as well as bad for everyone.

Part of the reason the documentary format is appealing is because:

  • Many news departments cannot afford to send someone to a foreign country to live in and understand a different society for any length of time, even for a country as important as China
  • Most editorial head offices have their own agenda, and see things very differently from the local people, which leads to an unbalanced view
  • The views of many Chinese are often dismissed because westerners think that they are, rightly or wrongly, closely supervised by minders and are only speaking the government line

Koppel is fortunate because he had an excellent record on his nightly news program, Nightline, which he hosted for nearly 20 years. And now, he is able to make the kinds of programs he likes, without having to worry about time and budget considerations. It would be nice if there were more journalists who could make documentaries the way Ted Koppel is able to.

The series is a four-part series showing on four consecutive nights. If you are outside the US, you will most likely be able to buy the series from iTunes, because Discovery regularly sells their documentaries in the Apple iTunes Store.