The People's Republic of Capitalism

The People's Republic of Capitalism

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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61 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Eric Lawson

    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 !!!

  2. Glen

    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.

  3. bluetortilla

    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.

  4. Sean Wong

    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..

  5. Bob Webb

    & 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.

  6. eyecandy_babydoll

    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.

  7. Yi Wen Qian

    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.

  8. Luyang Han

    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.

  9. Rocky Racoon

    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.

  10. Rene Levermann

    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.

  11. Zach Fraser

    Capitalism vs terrorisum whats the differance?

    1. imachainsaw

      whether they wear a suit or not.

  12. Stephane Gaudette

    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

  13. Ken Maddox

    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.

  14. Yusiley S

    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.

  15. Nakor420

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

    1. Wayne N

      Mao's intentions were good when he started the Great Leap Forward (1958 - 1961). He didn't starve people on purpose. Unfortunately for him, his methods were crap, thus leading to hundred and thousands of people in the countryside starving to death.

      40 million? where did you get that number exactly? When Mao took over China in 1949, the population was roughly 400 million. By your logic, the population went down by 40 million and rose to a billion in less than 30 years? That's not possible.
      Population generally rises only when the country is prosperous. China under Mao might not be prosperous. But it definitely had enough to go around.
      I've seen the so called "starve figures" range from 10 million to 50 million, all without any evidence.

  16. fonbindelhofas

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

  17. Michael Brown

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

  18. lex lexich

    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...

    1. Guest

      I don't really believe it can, either. Certainly, I'm not an economist, but, one way or the other, I've been expecting it to all fall apart someday since I was a child. People are just too damn greedy, and that mindset seems likely to fatally do us in at some point, unless it's very much curtailed. And, frankly, it seems too much ingrained for me to believe it ever really can be. I hate to say it, I really do, but I think it's possible we may be headed for another Dark Ages, or one that modern people would certainly consider to be.

    2. dong5000

      I agree, I almost think its just inevitable that we destroy ourselves. Perhaps thats what is needed for us to learn and evolve, then those who survive (if any) won't be so careless...

  19. Yavanna

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

    1. DarkSun14billion

      The US have nothing to fear. The US is the winner here.

    2. lex lexich

      of course the usa is the winner, it has all oil countries occupied or occupying in progress, and china is just another market

    3. John Rushnik

      lex, you obviously don't know what China is doing to Africa... China doesn't need oil from the middle east, and it doesn't need to send an army to get it, it doesn't even need to pay for it. All it needs to do is support dictators with weapons and politically in the UN. The USA can't exactly support any given dictator who slaughters 300,000+ men women and children, but China can and does.

  20. Phillip Galinsky

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

  21. ?? ? A Citizen

    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.

    1. steamknife

      No no no.. You don't understand the true meaning of Capitalism. At lease from dynasty to dynasty, the dumbest loyal family is smart enough to know the fatality of enabling an organisation to become too powerful. I've studied Chinese history and that kind of control over the empire is considered to be a SIN. The west is very very different to the Chinese. We LOVE large oragnisations and are even becoming more dependant on them. We provide them the flexibility to exploit the economy through their capitalists way hoping that they will return a favour back to the society. Unfortunately, they only return their favours back to the shareholders.

      At least with China's centrally controlled government, there won't be a business organisation that is large enough to alter political decisions and regulations. At lease the Chinese government's every dictating decision is based on the well-being of the country as a whole. What we have in the west is the opposite.

    2. John Rushnik

      Hahahahaha you are fooling yourself if you think that businesses do not control political issues in China. The government has it's hand in everything. That's why there is a virtual monopoly on the entire communications industry with the ex president's son being the major shareholder for the entire industry from phones to internet. That's why they are able to censor the internet so heavily and impliement things such as the ICP program which basically means any website not authorized by the communist party is not accessible to Chinese citizens. That's why companies such as Taobao are able to have websites such as eBay periodically blocked. That's why all traffic to Google was REDIRECTED to Baidu for weeks at a time in the early days so that a local company could get market share.

      It gets worse, that's why they execute so many people in China and sell the organs for a major profit. That's why the government took over all the coal mines to make them 'safe' but the fatalities did not decrease - and keep in mind that any 'incident' with less than 4 fatalities in a mine does NOT need to be reported and is NOT counted in the national statistics.

      The Chinese government is one huge company and they do not give a f*ck about anything except maintaining their monopoly no matter what the cost. If you really think China is so much better than the US, then forfeit your passport and submit yourself to the party - it means no more documentaries for you because they are blocked.

  22. Jack

    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.

    1. DarkSun14billion

      Pysmythe said: "In fact, I would probably live in Indonesia, at least for a while, if it were practicable for me to do so, or if I were still single. So don't get the idea that I'm bigoted "

      I don 't.

    2. Guest

      Not many Chinese products being sold in the U.S.?! Are you serious? Do you live here? I didn't think so, because if you did, you'd know that you have to elbow Chinese products out of your way just to walk down the street. And those tech companies may beat out American companies...but not necessarily in this country. Things changed in China, and things can change again here. In case you aren't aware of it, this country has a justly deserved reputation for rising to a challenge. And we haven't lost that, either, however much some might like that.

    3. DarkSun14billion


      Those Chinese products are manufactured in china, but those brands are mostly foreign brands. LG is a Korean company, but they make stuff in China, and ship it to the US market.

    4. DarkSun14billion

      Don 't make this out to be a war. I am not actually motivate by nationalism. You cannot compare Chinese companies with US companies, because Chinese companies are just now having their industrial revolution which Europeans had 500 years ago.
      Despite what you think, American companies still have a advantage with the media, advertising, and capital goods industry. America is definitely not the loser here.

      What America really a loser at is when you compare it to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore( Chinese government).I ask you to look at the east Asia economies in the last 30 years. They were sweatshops! Excluding Japan, We see the rise of Asia tigers. The top financial centers, 4 out of 6 are in east Asia. Taiwanese, and Koreans are starting to dominate the car, computer, and smartphones. There too much examples of US companies that would not exist if not for government help.

      If you look at history, and the rise of US economic might. US Is doing exactly what china is going, but at a much intense level to Europe. The import tax was 100%, while US government make loans to Europe, and sell to Europe until all of Europe 's gold is in America. You cannot say China is evil without looking at US deeds.

      It is not true that American people are exceptional. Look at the intel competitions, math, and science olympiads. Most are East Asians, or Indians.

    5. Guest

      That's part of what I'm saying, yes. And I don't fault China, or other countries, for being competitive, by the way. But I am pretty upset with this one, for evidently spending the last 25 years (or more) figuring out the most creative ways to ultimately not be competitive, and to save many millions yearly for the fat-cats of those American companies that have moved jobs overseas.

    6. Guest

      "It's not true that American people are exceptional."

      That's not precisely what I said, but never mind. And while it's true what you say about math and science competitions, there are still more Nobel Laureates from the U.S. than from anywhere else. And, since you brought it up, it is true that this country is (or has been...) exceptional, and probably the biggest reason for that is because we're comprised of so many different nationalities/ethnic groups from around the world. We've shook it up incredibly well here; it hasn't all been about white guys, or Jews, either, as many seem to think...

    7. DarkSun14billion

      Pysmythe said:
      "save many millions yearly for the fat-cats of those American companies that have moved jobs overseas."

      Like i said before, American companies are doing what is in their best interest. If they make their stuff here, then their products will be much more expensive than there Japanese/korea/taiwanese competitors. Also, the profits us firms are making are actually used to hire more American workers. it works both ways, friend.

    8. DarkSun14billion

      Pysmythe said:
      "Nobel Laureates from the U.S. than from anywhere else"

      What is the average age of nobel prize winners by the way? Say the average age is 60, then that would mean 40 years ago, those scientists make their discovery when they are in their 20s. Just 60 years ago, most of east Asia is in extreme poverty( even Japan). The people in east Asia 50 years ago do not have the best environment, and the universities, so it is not that they are less innovative, but they are simply not in the competition. Now, let us compare to EU, and US which had 500 years to build universities, writing books, and not to mention, the industrial revolution, and the culture developed around it. You should realize that this is not fair comparison, because they start at different developmental levels. I mention math, and science competitions, because they are a fairer measure of innovation.

      "it hasn't all been about white guys, or Jews, as everyone seems to think.."

      The Jews is a good example. Before the late 19 century, you can probably name the number of jewish intellectuals. In the late 19 century, when German universities open themselves to Jews. In a short time, Most of the doctors, lawyers in major cities are Jewish. 50 years later, most of the nobel from germany are Jews. I have a lot of respect for Jews, and their study tradition. Normal non-Jewish whites in this example are obvious out competed by Jews. This shows that once discrimination is out, then the comparative advantage of certain groups reveal themselves. Blacks are better at sports etc.

      When comparing, it is good to be fair.

    9. Guest

      Maybe I'm missing something, but if our products are more expensive than our competitors, how is that supposed to profit us? We'll lose business that way, unless I'm much mistaken... And these days we certainly see companies doing anything but hiring more workers in this country because of an "excess" of profits. Instead, what we see here, incredibly clearly, is that the companies don't care about the workers anymore at all. We're lucky if we can find one that provides group insurance rates, for example... It's all far too much about greed, and, to tell you the truth, that mindset is looking more and more likely to do us all in one of these days.

    10. Guest

      Right. They aren't called the People of the Book for nothing, and my wife has Jewish blood (her father's Jewish). Also, I've been to Southeast Asia twice (to Indonesia), and to Hong Kong, and very much love that part of the world. In fact, I would probably live in Indonesia, at least for a while, if it were practicable for me to do so, or if I were still single. So don't get the idea that I'm bigoted in any way, just in case that crossed your mind.

    11. DarkSun14billion

      Pysmythe said:
      "Maybe I'm missing something, but if our products are more expensive than our competitors, how is that supposed to profit us? "

      That is my point! Companies will do whatever they can out of self-interest. Most of the foreign directed investments to China is from over sea Chinese in S East Asia, and other surround east Asian countries. They are not doing it because of "nationalism", or anything "racial". They are doing it to reduce production cost, and sell their product cheaper relative to their US+ EU competitors. If EU, and US companies do not take advantage of the low production cost, then someone else will. This is I think a mind set from western companies. The choice to use china as a production base comes out of market forces.

  23. DarkSun14billion

    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.

  24. tanzanos

    America is reaping the seeds of globalisation she sowed!

  25. william brown

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

    1. BeardHero420

      Did someone say weed?

    2. Jellybean

      wake n bake?

  26. Sion88

    Do we have time for a shmoke and a pancake?

    1. Heather Wade

      A bong and a blintz?

    2. Sieben Stern

      opium and okonomiyaki?

    3. Memento Mori

      Cigar and a waffle?

    4. Guest

      Alprazolam and hot-pockets?

    5. RileyRampant

      sake und pot schtickah?

    6. Guest

      Absinthe and smoke.

    7. Guest

      a chocolat pot cookie and a glass of hemp milk.

    8. His Forever

      Hey! I do cornnuts and peanutbutter sandwiches and long-life milk (ya can't get fresh mild here)---the best way to watch a good doc., but what the heck is "hemp milk"? What was that poor cow smokin!?! :-)