City of Dreams

City of Dreams

2006, Society  -   25 Comments
Ratings: 8.09/10 from 70 users.

It's party time in the birthplace of Chinese communism. Welcome to 21st century Shanghai. It's glorious to be rich is the party's new directive. A new middle-class is creating a surge of wealth, a surge that is leaving millions behind. In an abandoned theme park on the edge of town, film director Ma Liang is selling dreams to the new China. And in the heart of the city, designer Jenny Ji prepares to conquer the fashion world.

On the other side of town, architect Jin Ze Guang is erecting glittering towers on the rubble of the past. But the Shanghai dream comes at a price. Wei Qin just lost her home, her job, and maybe even her son's future. Nearly two million residents have been forced from their neighborhoods. Chang Mei Li's husband tried to fight the system; now he's in jail. She's harassed by police and destitute.

Hu Yang captures the city of vaunting ambitions and wrenching despair, a world he fears could self destruct. These are some of the lives caught up in one of the most stunning human transformations in the world today, and nowhere is that transformation more apparent than in Shanghai. In the streets and neighborhoods of the old city, the new dream for China is being turned into reality. A generation of Chinese now lives in a style that would not look out of place in New York, Berlin, or Toronto.

A quarter century ago, the Chinese government concluded that their survival depended on creating something they once tried to crush: a prosperous middle-class. In 1921, the communist party was born here. Today, that once hallowed birth place lies hidden behind the Starbucks, and an upscale shopping plaza. State controlled television is pumping out consumer dreams for the more than 100 million members of China's new middle-class.

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25 Comments / User Reviews



  2. Dan

    It says this is not available in my country (USA) I wonder if they have intentionally hidden it

    1. john

      Here too in the UK, not available

  3. Peter

    Excellent. Every person was portrayed as that: a real person. It was touching and unafraid to look at multiple sides of Shanghai's success.

  4. bluetortilla

    Well, I've lived in China for three years now and have to agree with Mox that Shanghai was god-awful. Couldn't wait to leave.
    China has it's own brand of corruption, no surprises there. What about the financial cartel on Wall Street, a speculative bubble economy, and lobbying government cooperation for favorable legislation in Washington? Harassment by cops? Sure, and how about Homeland security? It seems China's middle class is emerging while America's is disappearing. A price to pay? You bet.
    I'm left wondering what was the purpose of this documentary. It told us nothing we don't already know. Is the West really oblivious to its own decadence and decline and portraying Chinese people with some bucks as bad for having a bbq and owning a large country home? Wow.
    Finally, where I live there is still plenty of cheap, open land and tons of as yet unleased/mortgaged housing. It's far more comfortable than the provincial capital. My impression is that China's future is bright.

  5. Mox

    I was in Shanghai not long ago hoping to find the Chinese culture that I have learned about in the history books. What i found was an entire city built on the models of New York and Los Angeles. They even have a replica of the Wall Street bull on the city waterfront. It is a totally Western setting populated by Chinese faces. In their mad quest get rich quick and to catch up with the developed world they have sold their souls. The so-called Chinese civilization is dead, and there is no such thing as the Chinese culture anymore.

  6. adilrye

    I find China fascinating. It is experiencing one of the most astonishing societal transformations in human history. I just wonder though, and this isn't coming from a "omggg let them vote" American perspective thing, but I wonder what ordinary Chinese people think of the authoritarian rule.

    Do they see their country going through this social and economic revolution WITH the CPC in power still or eventually want a multi-party system? Is the guided capitalism the way they want to go or do they want to embrace free market principles?

    1. Joe Wong

      As Pope Francis said free market principles are bankrupted magic theories.

  7. ChefBryn

    Very much like America the huge gap between the rich and poor.

  8. watchtheduck

    "In China, the lawyer who tells the truth will be convicted." In America, the soldier who tells the truth will be convicted. Don't call him Chelsea, the name pinned on him to demean him, call him Bradley Manning.

  9. watchtheduck

    Notice the symbolic Pyramid in the background, 5 minutes or so in?

  10. watchtheduck

    And just who do you suppose is behind this "city of dreams"? The Rothschilds. Look it up... Rothschilds and Shanghai.

  11. 1concept1

    Its much easier to control the masses if they have, something to loose. Each donkey has to be issued his own stick and carrot. People like new things and toys its human nature. Its values, some people value material things others don't. Personally I wouldn't spend one extra hour of my time here on this Earth in pursuit of a rolex watch my shadow is my sun dial. But that's me. Ironically a majority of my Good friends over the years have been "wealthy" or well to do. I have always admired the "conservatives" mind set with that lazier like focus, there ability to materialize. I live in a tree house, actually its a loft over a very tall barn in the mountains the mountain drops at the edge of my deck placing me in the canopy. my very good friend down the road sleep on the Earth. He says, "I know how cold it is in the winter by how many sleeping bags i need". He has a little pop up tent in case he needs it. I've known him five years now and he has always slept there. He maintains a storage unit, small, within walking distance. He has a graduates degree in chemistry and does piece work. He works on my computer, .10,cents on the dollar. I doubt he even knows who's the President of the US is. The point is don't judge people accept people be respectfully and tend to your own business.

  12. Paneye

    consumerism in China is pretty disgusting

    1. Paneye

      consumerism everywhere is disgusting for that matter...but watching a rich culture like China's descend into materialistic individualism is heart breaking.

    2. avd420

      Good thing we're not forced to participate. We can only choose too. Although I am not as materialistic as the rest of the world, I respect their right to choose to participate.

    3. systems1000

      All though we are not really forced to engage in gluttony,slave ownership and the pollution of our air and water,those who choose to do so desreve no respect,and as nature has tought us we never have yet won a war with our mother.China,s middle class in not middle class but rather the new super rich which is unstainable.As its eventual collapse will attest to which has all ready started with the the 70 million appartments still unrentable.

    4. bringmeredwine

      The young people are caught up in the heady new excitement of it all, the consumerism anyway.
      They will learn, just as we have.

    5. TheDanishViking

      The consumerism in China is just a couple of decades behind the consumerism in the West - or to put it another way: The stuff that is cool in China right now was cool in the West ten-twenty years ago. That doesn't make our western way of consumerism less disgusting. In fact the West is still leading the way of decadence

    6. Imightberiding

      When I travelled to Hong Kong & China, the fashions & electronics I saw there were not available or still ahead of the fashions back in the U.S. & Canada.

      In fact, they were at least a year ahead of the west coast of America.

    7. TheDanishViking

      A lot of chinese consumer culture has an "1980's feel" to it, but Hong Kong is not much behind the West. Still I would argue that the way products are generally being advertised are a little old school - even if the products themselves are very modern. Maybe that is why we westerners find it grotesque the way chinese demonstrate their wealth? In the West we demonstrate our wealth in what we believe to be a more sophisticated manner? It is like they hold a mirror of truth up in front of us ;-)

    8. Pysmythe

      I've had layovers in Hong Kong a few times, and one thing that always blew me away was that many of the lowly taxi-cabs there were new Mercedes Benzes...

    9. 1concept1

      Obviously its been a long time since you have been to China.

      So our "stuff" is better then their "stuff" is what you are saying and you have no stuff so therefore its decadent, that's the way i read you, correct?

    10. TheDanishViking

      No. (see my coment below).

  13. bringmeredwine

    Very interesting and worthwhile to watch.