DVD Review: The People's Republic of Capitalism (2008)

Acorn Media & Athena Release
A Series of Titles That
Celebrate Lifelong Learning

Shop AcornOnline.com

Bookmark this on Delicious
submit to reddit
Print Page


MovieBlips: vote it up!

Although I think it's safe to say that the same is true around the world-- given our economic recession and the overwhelming number of jobs lost throughout the United States, everyone you meet here in America has an opinion on outsourcing and our economy.

Yet the double-edged sword aspect about our valuable first amendment which allows for freedom of speech is that it doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with knowledge as sometimes these statements regarding legal and illegal migrant workers, outsourcing jobs overseas to India, China and other countries can lead to some pretty divisive and angry language.

Yes, we'd like to keep more jobs in our country... but at the same time we must ask what we ourselves are doing about it via actively thinking about what our choices mean by perhaps refusing to shop at stores that outsource labor, use sweat shops etc.

For example, although it's commonly known that Wal-Mart's low prices are low because of the company's outrageous practices (which you can explore in greater detail in the brilliant documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices)-- because consumers are in debt from layoffs, we'll continue to shop at such stores, buy products made cheaply in other countries from those whose jobs used to be our own that are now exploited in unsafe conditions for little pay...and so the cycle continues on.

While on the surface, one may not realize how alike China and the United States are in all actuality-- nonetheless economically both countries are as Ted Koppel reveals in the first part of this brilliant four-part documentary "joined at the hip," although our relationship of interdependence and back-and-forth trade-offs of supply and demand is incredibly complicated.

Of course, admittedly it's safe to say that all sides of the issue can't be addressed in this fascinating 176 minute critically acclaimed documentary which aired on the Discovery Channel a year ago in the Koppel on Discovery series, yet the forty-two time Emmy Award Winner Ted Koppel (who is also the recipient of eight prestigious Peabody honors and has been inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame) is precisely the right man for the job to give us an investigative overview.

Now Koppel's The People's Republic of Capitalism has been made available as a two disc set from Athena and Acorn Media as part of Athena's ongoing commitment to promoting lifelong learning through high quality documentary releases. Arriving in a nice slim-packaged 2-disc set, the title also comes complete with a full color twenty page viewer's guide that goes over main factual highlights, further background information about China and the cultural revolution, avenues for further learning, and thoughtful questions to consider to help you digest what is being discussed. Also boasting an exlusive interview with Koppel as well as releasing the documentary on Blu-ray as well, the collection could not be timelier given our econonomic crisis and the way that our economy affects every other country's as well.

To this end, he wisely narrows his scope specifically to the Sichuan Province city of Chongqing (located southwest of Shanghai) that now has a population of thirty million residents.

Throughout the four part documentary which consists of "Joined at the Hip," "MAO-ism to ME-ism," "The Fast Lane," and "It's the Economy, Stupid," Koppel takes an in-depth approach using business model compare and contrast techniques (such as Ethan Allen & Wal-Mart), candid interviews, global impact studies, and research.

Additionally and quite admirably, he manages to incorporate other aspects of Chinese life that immediately we wouldn't have thought to take into consideration by exploring their emerging and deadly relationship with automobiles from a former bicycle culture on their path to becoming a major economic superpower.

Shockingly uncovering that China now has twice as many highway fatalities via four hundred accidents a day and the estimation that they will have more cars on the road than the United States by 2030, Koppel examines the impact this has on not only the lives of those on the road or those working in construction to help support this demand for roads but also how this will detrimentally affect the environment as in China "everything depends on coal" which is cheap but dangerous for miners and devastating to our planet.

Throughout the series, he views the impact capitalism is having on the country with its new advent of governmental corruption and "look the other way policy "to the "illegal" yet widespread practice of prostitution in karaoke bars and brothels (where business deals are decided a la the American strip club).

And moreover, Koppel consistently uses prior issues uncovered as a springboard, following through on them to see the way that one topic leads to several others, thereby constantly reminding us that although it's easy to say something is "good" or "bad," there's so much to consider from an international perspective.

However, despite our vast differences given China's strict one-child policy and the citizens' trust in their government that they're willing to abandon our American style political freedom for what they feel will lead to a far better economic and prosperous future for the country-- an underlying theme throughout is that we both share the same contradictions of corruption, bribery, and exploitation of workers. Of course, this goes even further working in the widening class divide as the rich continue to grow wealthier and aspire to live a life of luxury products and surroundings whereas the poorer "peasant" class find themselves struggling to afford education or find suitable or safe work. Does this sound familiar?

Overall it's amazingly engrossing and quite hard to sum up the all-encompassing documentary that makes it an ideal source of advanced independent lifelong learning or continuing education especially considering the fact that everything transferred to disc resonates so strongly today. And although it will leave you with a far greater understanding of how dependent our economies are on each other and it's especially great to watch and discuss with others-- in the end it made me glad that I'm not in charge of a major corporation or served as a governmental decision maker in the area of trade relations.

However, at the same time-- it does call you to action and make you evaluate your own attitudes and decisions. Of course, while I already avoid Wal-Mart, you (like me) may find yourself thinking twice about not just your attitudes on outsourcing since that's just one small part of the whole chain but also via purchasing specific items from certain stores when you ascertain how every single one of us is impacted around the globe no matter where the item's label states it was manufactured in the first place.