The Chinese Bubble

The Chinese Bubble

2011, Economics  -   15 Comments
Ratings: 8.14/10 from 86 users.

Don't let the glittering towers, luxury houses and neon skylines fool you. While China has undergone a profound economic transformation in recent decades, the flashy facade of wealth hides a much more complicated reality which is currently being experienced by the country's non-elite classes. The Chinese Bubble, a documentary produced by the VPRO Backlight series, explores this conundrum through personal portraits and insightful analysis.

The country's current economic model has only deepened the imbalance between the rich and the poor. Early on in the film, we meet Li Jie, a young taxi driver who transports many of Beijing's richest inhabitants. Sadly, Jie feels that the Chinese dream they epitomize will forever remain out of his reach. The driver works himself ragged, but he can't afford even the most rudimentary life of comfort. He exposes a new custom among the area's rich; they buy up new apartments and leave them vacant until the market rises and they can maximize their profits. Angered by an inability to afford his own suitable housing, the driver pulls his taxi to the side of the road and snaps photos of these empty properties. These pictures almost serve as his form of forensic evidence.

A majority of the wealth in China is generated through real estate. We learn that 70% of properties in Shanghai are sold to either repeat customers or wealthy buyers who don't even live in the country. The wealth generated by these deals never trickles down to the hard-working impoverished citizens who need it the most.

The film features an interview with Wang Jianlin, the richest real estate tycoon in China, who proclaims that economic prosperity is available to everyone in the country. This assertion is intercut by scenes of Feng Lun, a construction worker who toils daily on the perilous scaffolding of Jianlin's tallest developments, but struggles to support his wife and children on a meager wage.

China's development has quadrupled over the past decade, yet the country's per capita income remains lower than most industrialized nations in the world. According to one of the film's interview subjects, this is unlikely to improve as long as China's political leaders continue to behave like "Wall Street traders." The Chinese Bubble shows us the tragic human costs of this growing disparity.

Directed by: Floris-Jan van Luyn

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15 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Haricot Vert

    "We're counting on the Chinese economy to save the world."

    You have to be kidding. Who is we? Only an idiot would say that.

    1. Barry Morgan

      Spot on!!

  2. Urban dweller

    There's always a bubble when you participate in unregulated capitalism. Any country that base their economic growth on capitalism will experience bubbles. With capitalism there is always big ups and huge down - especially capitalism-on-steroids. Capitalism only works for the growth and development of society when it's consistently observed and regulated.

  3. Joe Wong

    The video tells the story of social inequality in China, which is far less severe than in the USA. People should know that USA bubble burst was caused by financial malfunction and scams not because of social inequality, meanwhile real estate in China does not have subprime problem like the USA.

    Real estates is a form of asset just like stocks and bonds, empty real estates is same as bad stocks and bonds, people in the USA and the rest of the West holds stocks and bonds with vast amount of money (cash or borrowed), but it does not cause bubble in the USA and rest of the West, why would Chinese bought asset in the form of empty real estate bought with cash and functioning mortgage would cause bubble is puzzling.

    It seems the author of the video did not understand what cause USA bubble burst, he superficially extrapolated US real estate market crash to China’s real estate market, he did not understand the cause of USA bubble was caused by financial Ponzi scam, frauds, the subprime mortgage, and subprime MBS, ABS, and CDOs; the US bubble burst because the failure of the financial sector which is no longer can cover the risk it exposed to and there was no more new money to support the subprime Ponzi scam which does not exist in China.

    The video is regurgitating what China haters like Gordon Chang and Peter Navarrvo have been chanting thru fabrication and zero-sum cold war rhetoric.

  4. esteve

    'there is no self' a collectivist dream but in reality recipe for creeping tyranny as we see in China.

  5. Curtis

    This video shows the lives of few people in China, all of whom have a job which gives them money to buy food, shelter and even save a bit.
    90 million people in China have none of the above or barely enough for food and crude shelter but could never even dream of having extra money at the end of the month to save any of it.
    3.5 million people in Canada live below the poverty level. 1 million try and survive on $600 a month or less.
    When you consider that about 1/10th the population of China is living in poverty and '' more '' than 1/10th the population of Canada is living in poverty, what is it that is so great about our government over theirs?

  6. fahad

    This documentary focuses on the gap between rich and poor in china more than describing the Chinese bubble , any way it's worth watching .

  7. Ian

    Maybe the Anniversary of the Wall Street Crash will be celebrated in the same way in Beijing . . . .Not long to go !!

  8. basil

    Interesting.....they are learning about corporate greed and corporate lust...and...and the West is their training what's new...? Don't criticize them, they are being human ...just go hmmmm.

  9. ruth wells

    yes this is what is happening in van. bc canada. now the poor who wants to rent an apartment can not .

  10. Luckmini

    Poor in money always look at how rich live and start to believe we need to have money like them to be happy.
    Lots of people believe more money more happiness , how can we tell the world it's not true , we can live simple life things we only need until we go bank to the soil .
    We can enjoy and live down to the earth with out getting hurt.

  11. Ssss

    Soul sucking in every way

  12. Margie

    Chasing money is never the key to happiness. Staying rooted to the natural world is. See all the litter near the last scene? I could not stand living in such an environment of consumerism and waste. I would be out there picking it up, as I do along the roadside that I live on. But, I don't care if I drive a Mercedes, either. If the car has an engine, a radio and a heater, I am satisfied. I prefer the life I have here in the PNW amongst the trees, my animals and my gardens. These Chinese have destroyed their future and yes, the bubble will burst.

  13. Nasr Pakistani

    China has built itself out of crash. It is not as it seems or presented to be. Just look at china.

  14. cdnski12

    The bubble will burst. What will the PLA do? Sit in their barracks and twiddle their thumbs. Where is their piece of the pie. The last time the Communists smashed the Landlord Class. Today the Communist Party Landlords smash the Poorer Classes. Mao proved the poor classes can smash the landlord capitalists. Perhaps they will do so again. That is why so much Money has been ferreted out of China to buy Property, houses, apartments in Canada, USA, Australia, UK & other places. Can the rats get off the sinking ship? They are ruining the Vancouver Real Estate System.