The People's Republic of Capitalism

The People's Republic of Capitalism

2008, Society  -  Playlist 61 Comments
Ratings: 8.48/10 from 48 users.

The People's Republic of CapitalismPerhaps nothing crystallizes the theme of Ted Koppel’s excellent Discovery Channel series The People’s Republic of Capitalism like the production of Ethan Allen couches. Over four episodes, Koppel reveals increasing economic interdependence between the United States and China, and daily business for the American furniture maker is a case in point.

While couch bases are made in Chinese factories using cheap labor, those bases are then sent to the U.S. to be assembled with other components. The finished couches are then sent to China to be sold to a growing middle class with money to spare. Such is the cycle of globalization, pushing the U.S. and China into a necessary partnership that has an upside for some and a profound downside for others.

In order to understand that complexity, Koppel tells us, it’s important to grasp rapid changes in China, which has forsaken socialism—the very idea of a classless society—for a fervent embrace of new values and the goal of becoming an economic superpower.

Koppel shows viewers how China, on one hand, micro-manages people's lives in very real ways, such as the country's notorious one child policy for families, which is designed to lower the nation's enormous population in time. On the other hand, Chinese are enjoying the freedom to pursue aspirations toward economic success and the (sometimes illicit) fruits of hard work.

But others don't manage quite as well: Chinese factory workers who battle fatigue to make the equivalent of $20 per week, and the American workers who lost their jobs to their overseas counterparts. This eye-opening series is truly helpful toward understanding our complicated new world.

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Eric Lawson
9 years ago

This is the one thing Richard Nixon got right. Or wrong depending where one sits on the proverbial fence! We all benefit over here in the west. I would love to buy more items that are labeled Made in Canada . They simply hardly exist. I know there are many jobs being lost in our manufacturing sector.That is a problem that will not be solved anytime soon. I thoroughly enjoyed this Documentary Bravo !!!

10 years ago

Big companies like Apple pay about 2% tax.. the story is in here .. this is how a depression starts only this one will be a lot worse than the 30's.

11 years ago

What's up with part 4?
I live in urban China and find the city to be surprisingly pleasant and upbeat. There is plenty of the good things in abundance- good food, quality clothing, nice flats, and the cost of living is quite reasonable. There is a feeling of prosperity here and the people seem content, although everyone of course complains about corruption and the government- it seems a national pastime. I don't feel there's much difference between the West aside from the voting system (or lack of rather- but hey- check out China's 'local democracy' if you get a chance). Of course there is the dark underbelly that I never see, but every country has that, so I'd decline grabbing the bull by the horns on that one. Ah, there is a lot of air pollution (coal) of course and undoubtedly multifarious forms of other pollution too, but despite the horror stories you hear and the need for greater uniform inspection, consumer products here such as insecticides and medications all do fall under strict regulations. Selling dangerous goods outside these restrictions will land a person in jail or worse if caught (I guess that's all in part 4). Store brands don't stoop to it.
I might sound like a mouthpiece for the PRC but really I'm not. I just find China a fascinating and highly livable place. I hope it keeps improving. We focus a lot on China's problems and alarmists abounds but there is another side to this: what if China stays consistent with its history, avoids military confrontation, and manages to emerge as a 'gentler and kinder' superpower? Stranger things have happened in history. College students here will tell you (despite the image of all educated Chinese as money hungry) that family, friends, and happiness are far more important than money, and at the same time they look forward to contributing something. These kids are something altogether different in attitude than the kids back home, most of whom are saddled with debt and terrified that they won't be able to find a job.
All I can say is that China when you live here is nothing like the China you see in these documentaries. But I guess that's common sense.

Sean Wong
11 years ago

The documentary almost sounded biased at part 3. But I have a better understanding of the connection between politics and business. This doc did a good job illustrating the landscape between these two powers.

Although it seems the relationship is too intertwined to undo, I feel there is a much simpler solution.

But it requires the assumption that democracy still works. People having a government that works for the people. If the goal of the government is the same as the people; to lower national debt and getting people their ability to compete (work). - TAX FOREIGN MADE GOODS. -

1) Taxed foreign goods to reduce the incentive to purchase a product based on price. - provides a fair playing field for quality products made domestically. There is a spread in this margin that governments can capture to repay debt.

2) Higher taxes may result in less corporate competitive edge. when they cant compete, prices go up dramatically. Consumable goods is already a large portion of daily income for most families. If this goes up too much, there will be more suffering. until free market takes over - demand for innovation will drive businesses to consider more on resources, quality, and efficiency that will enrich our lives. not just on profit and prestige. - both of which only exist as ideas.

3) The Chinese can buy quality american **** while everything in America is Made in China ****. - im chinese, but look.. it is what it is...

4) If nations competed over innovation rather than... profit? how do nations compete? do they? or are they just owned by corporations by now? china is the biggest corporation so far...?

5) I love the title of this doc..

11 years ago

& where is part 4 I wonder..It would seem the Chinese G-Man does not want us to learn of the corruption and damage to the planet their country are allowing in the name of so called "progress".......beware tyranny is at large.

11 years ago

Ahh the good old days of the cultural revolution..
I went to kindergarten and first grade in China in the early 90's. They still teach that sh!t in school to little kids. I remember in maths class, the equations were asked like this "if Mao had 3 soldiers and 4 more joined him, how many soldiers does Mao have now?" And if you were especially good, you get to wear this naf looking red scarf around your neck (like a dog collar) to show your patriotism. Even the pictures in the maths books had little Mao supporters with red scarfs hanging around on every page. That's why Gen Y and Gen Z in China have NO FRIGGEN idea about the Tienanmen Square & student massacre incident - I didn't find that out until I migrated outta there.

11 years ago

It's a funny affair in China at the moment, although there isn't a form of democracy, the government is scared to hell about revolution because they know very well the minute that they don't deliver economic growth, they are going down. So in a way there is a democratic loop here. Still, as long as a country is doing well, the citizens are not going to complain. While conditions are not ideal, it's a lot better than 10 years ago, and 10 years before that. They have increased the minimum wage and is now attempting to reduce the gape between rich and poor (a result of 'jasmine protest', around 200 people lasting a few hours lol, yep they are scared). It's funny how with all the crap that's going on China, it is on the rise while Europe and US is on the decline.

Luyang Han
11 years ago

I think it is fair to say that China is the most capitalistic nation nowadays. Everyone is completely exposed to free and brutal competition, with the central government as the largest monopoly. It is not socialism, not communism, but national corporatism.

Rocky Racoon
12 years ago

The Chinese factory workers are going on strike and many are so desperate they commit suicide because of the living conditions. One large computer company who makes the apples and all that is going to automate hoping to replace 3 million workers in the next 5 years so will everyone else and then what do we do about employment? I don't think China is completely capitalist they do have free economic zones along the coast-which way China tips- can solve the class antagonisms which I doubt as capitalism has it's own inner logic that of accumulation and concentration....the political economy will have to change as will the social order. We should be preparing ourselves for lessons in democracy...all across the board.
And how it can be expanded once contextualized and defined. History is not static nor are our societies......hopefully those under dog values or equality and democracy and do unto others and the golden age all resonate will people still. We are only trapped in a system we created. We must uncreate it wisely, truthfully honestly and appeal to all that is best in human beings, examples such as Nickoli Tesla and Jonas Salk come to mind.

12 years ago

A really good and interesting documentation. I am living in China and would agree to a lot of points. I highly recommend it!
PS. Some of the comments only can come from people, who never seen more of the world... you need to travel to China, to understand this country.

12 years ago

Capitalism vs terrorisum whats the differance?

12 years ago

That rich dude ...the guy with the concrete business...well i hope he gets the worst ass cancer that an angry god can create

Of course he sees his country as awesome...The government is controlling the people that can't demonstrate or go on strike so they are kept as cheap labour ....a steel worker to build a bridge in Canada will get as much as 40$ an hour...over there 11$ a day

I hope the citizens of China revolt and go to the streets and get themselvez unionised....without union the disparity rich-poor will always be wide

12 years ago

Is this the same thing as cloth made in USA, shipped to El Salvador assembled in to pants, shipped back to the US for sale to cosumers? Gotta love that cheap labor in other nations, it guarantees an inferior product, huge profits, and loss of American jobs.

12 years ago

If history has taught me anything, it is this... no empire has fully succeeded. All will eventually come to an end. The first will always be economy, especially that of capitalism, then government and then the rest. Nothing lasts forever... well, except maybe the pyramids, who laugh at everything and everyone.

12 years ago

Mao was a brutal dictator. 40 million chinese starved to death under his regime.

12 years ago

10 out of 10! no sides taken no morality no blah blah blah... BRAVO!

Michael Brown
12 years ago

Great documentary. I enjoyed every second of it. It gives you an amazing inside view into China.

lex lexich
12 years ago

this is a very good documentary, certainly a must see.
For me it clearly shows how senseless and un- sustainable capitalism really is.
Sure thing, all people have rights to develop, but is it the right path to sell to every of the 1300 000 000 chinese and 1 000 000 000 indians a car and a cell phone? not to mention other rapidly growing markets... where does it all ends? The planet surely can't support it...

12 years ago

USA you'd better learn chinese. You're FkD.

12 years ago

2:51 more like "by the grace of mirror neurons."

12 years ago

who said Capitalism is invented by the Europeans ? It is invented by the Chinese who is already the largest trading nation in the Tang Dynasty.

12 years ago

Chinese manipulates their currency and interest rate to benefit businessman and primarily to their bureaucrat . Brings up rich-poor gap in the country and all the inequality to their people. Their low cost manufacturing causes job loss every where else. It is time to do something to 'Capitalism' to bring more equality to the world.

12 years ago

China is unique among the east Asian economies. After WW2, the economies of Singapore(Chinese people government), and Hong Kong became top financial centers due in part to the high saving rates. Japan, Korea, and Taiwan became the hub of all things electronics, and car related. By the way, Korea, and Taiwan 30 years ago where places for Japanese, and American sweatshops, but now, 1 and 2 tiers in many industries from computers to smartphone. Do you see a pattern? All these countries where once sweatshops, but have all produced hugely successful multinationals. With Time, I bet China will one day be a amazing place with very reliable home growth brands. In fact, I think it is hard that they don 't, since they are surrounded by all these economies that do. They all had to beat the odds, and the government their is very "business friendly".
China had always been the top of all the east Asian economies, and culture core. It is great that they are starting their path to their once former glory.

12 years ago

America is reaping the seeds of globalisation she sowed!

william brown
12 years ago

how about some gluten free cereal with a splash of maple syrup and a toke of granddady kush

12 years ago

Do we have time for a shmoke and a pancake?