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join the discussion: What are your thoughts on the vast economic and social changes sweeping China, as it transforms itself from a  rigid communist society to an exploding market economy?


An excellent program. I couldn't turn my eyes away, or my ears for that matter. I wanted to send thyroid medication to the woman with an obvious goiter, or help in some way. The woman whose husband had a stroke and was demoted also moved me. We are so spoiled in the West. I was disturbed a bit by the materialism of the successful marketing consultant. Why do we in the West export the worst of our values?

What I'd like to know is some more about the music, particularly the woman singing several songs that were not rock, but gentle songs, almost angelic. I don't see any credits which list the songs performers. If this information is available I would love to have it.

Karen Roberts
atascadero, ca

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Producer Sue Williams talks about the music used in the film in her interview elsewhere on this site.


All I can say is, Wow!

I just spent the last two hours watching China in the Red through the PBS.org website from China. (Yes, it's true. It's not blocked here.)

I taught at a university in Northeast China during the same period that Ms. William's was filming this show and I can testify that she paints an utterly accurate picture of what I saw and experienced there during that time.

I am now on the faculty of Zhejiang University in southeast China but my heart remains with the people of the Northeast. I can assure your viewers that there are tens of millions of Feng Hui-Xiu's and Zhang Shu Yan's. And the difficulties of the children in gaining access to good education is on my "frontline" everyday.

Thank you to PBS and Sue Williams for showing the rest of the world that China is not a sea of faceless masses. Thank you for giving these great people face.

Chuck Allanson
hangzhou, zhejiang, china

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
According to those who have studied internet censorship in China over the past couple of years, there are variations, both geographical and over time, for sites which are blocked. PBS has been blocked in the past, but PBS web viewers in China like Mr. Allanson show that it is possible to access PBS.org there at the present time. Read more about Internet blocking in the "Democracy" section of this web site.


What's so startling about this documentary is its complete lack of moral compass on the fundamental issues concerning every Chinese citizen.

It devotes the entire program to portraying the preponderance and enormity of China's economic problems and its social and cultural ramifications, with the unmistakable message that due to these economic distresses, all other issues such as human rights, press freedom, and democracy should give way to solving the economic problems first--the very ferocious Party line Beijing has been carrying out in suppressing millions of their fundamental rights in China. In fact, the very last concluding statement of the documentary comes from Wu Jinglian, the Chinese Government economist: If we follow the current path of the Party, China will overcome its overwhelming difficulties and there will be hope for China to become DEMOCRATIC!!"

Yes, there is the problem of corruption, which the program amply states, but two minutes after the devastating indictment of the Party's corruption by a young brave economist, the specific example given was the workshop boss in the Capital Steel who blames the rampant corruption on the job-seeking ordinary workers! In the eyes of producer Sue Williams, the Communist Party officials are CORRUPTED but not CORRUPT themselves, just like the hard-working, "universally loved" Shenyang Mayor Mu Sui-xin (an evil Party official who threw away millions of public funds at Macau's gambling houses, and who was the most hated man in entire Shenyang city by any standards).

The double moral standard on China in this film is also intolerable: if the filmmaker were banned from interviewing her audience in the Soviet Union, North Korea, Boston, or Washington DC, she would have been most violently protesting for press freedom infridgement, yet in her film, she was frequently banned from talking to her intended interviewees, but that's okay and all understandable, because, well, China is special, where human rights, press freedoms must give away to "Chinese characteristics." As a Chinese myself, I find this quite insulting and disgusting!

This conceptual bias has also led to numerous deceptive manipulations in the film. In order to stress the "harsh" life of a communist cadre in the Capital Steel, the film completely twists what was said in the Chinese original--the cadre says he lives in a place of only 600 "pingmi" (square METERS!, which is huge by Chinese standard), yet the English voiceover makes it "600 square FEET!!. Mistakes such as this permeates the entire documentary and I don't think it's just linguistic incompetence.

The most urgent task facing China is not a few more billions of tax payers' money in the West, but a lot more democratic institutions and unabashed condemnations from the civilized world on China's horrendous human rights violations.

Maochun Yu
annapolis, maryland


Thank you for viewing an excellent and timely film on China. This is one of the best documentaries I've watched in years.

In addition to the film, I find the discussions by the China experts on your "Democracy" section of this site particularly interesting and insightful, particular the remarks made by Ms. Ogden and Ms. Thurston.

V. M. Lam
san francisco, ca


What a wonderful of piece of journalism!

My biggest question on the program is: is there a clever or more humanistic approch to democracy? or what is democracy? Democracy is merely a ideal dream, or is it a model that everyone can copy? Is it possible to follow the path that people here in the states have paved for many years of breaking through all the obstacles?

China is exactly tring to find a way to make a transition to market economy. Yet look at the human suffering and emotional distress, I really doubt this is natural path for which all the common citizens of China would willingly to follow. ... Of course finding your own way is bloody tough, getting somebody else's idea is much more prefered. That's human nature.

I wonder if China in 20 or 30 years will become so preoccupied with western democratic doctrines or a total capitalist society that big corporations control every aspects of social life, put a little salt of communist, or whatever become then, authoritarian system. Polarization of wealth become so severe that government do whatever it can to glorify the riches. Social justice become entertaining isssue, government become corporations' agency.

I myself is an architect. I can design building for a comfort living. But I can't design social structure that will let all human live comfortably. I am sad because my gutt feeling is blaiming myself as incapable professional.

David Chen
nyc, ny

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
In the "Democracy" section of this web site you can read a roundtable discussion with four experts on the prospects for democracy and other questions raised by the letter writer.


I hope there will be more unbiased portral of China like this in the future.

I grew up in a huge state-own factory in South China, went to Beijing for college, and then came to the United States for grad study. These have been big jumps in my life. The factory my parents worked for almost crashed down several years ago. My dad, 58 years old, lost his job with little compensation when my mom have been retired for several years. My sister, after a long-time argument with my parents, quitted her "steady work" with meager salary and left our hometown to look for jobs in another city. There are still stories going on in my family as well as millions of other Chinese families.

I appreaciate your excellent job in displaying life of ordinary people like my family and many of my freinds! I see the reforms and changes positively, while at the same time, I totally understand the painful experiences of many individuals in surviving or just adjusting to the dramatic transformations in every aspects of their life.

Anna Liu
los angeles, ca


What an incredible feat! I am a movie producer and my husband is a film editor. We enjoyed every moment of footage. We just returned from China about 3 mos. ago with our little girl who is the light of our lives. We watched your program with her sleeping peacefully in our arms. We wondered who her parents were, what was their situation? Did they abandon her because they could now afford to have children or because she was a girl? Were they peasants or from the city? Thank you for taking us past the concrete walls of the apartment buildings and inside the homes of people just like our daughter's biological family. It makes us feel closer to her and closer to her complex and beautiful birthplace of China. It also underscored a much treasure saying in the Chinese adoption community: Yi Nu Ping An "One child, peaceful and safe"

Danielle Lovett
los angeles, ca


The film was wonderful and I hope many in the US will appreciate our education program. Just about every parent was concerned about paying for their child's education.

My heart goes out to the daughter of the woman in Chestnut Flower Village who had to leave school because of her mother's illness. She just looked so broken. I made a vow last night that I will do what ever I can to put this girl through school. Eating $25 less a month is where I plan to start. I hope many others will give when a fund is set up here.

J manago
chandler, az


This is the best and most real picture about china.

Thanks for the contribution from the team.

Is it possible to have a video available?

Yong xie
tucson, az

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
The full program can be viewed online here on the web site.


Well PBS have done it again.

Frontline has to be the best programe on tv,a ll the stories are so inetrseting and i look forward to every thursday. Last night on China was one of the best documentaries i have every seen, as good as the BBC and CBC.


Keep up the great work.

floyd gadd
st louis, mo


I am still unable to take the images of people interviewed from my mind. The steel factory worker, the lady with thyroid problem, the son who goes to the city to learn refrigration - to me their facial expression conveyed more than their words. I thank the folks behind "Frontline" for this excellent piece of work.

In mathematics, we have the concept of "necessary and sufficient". Evidently, for long-term irreversible kind of growth, it is "necessary" that there is political reform in China. Unless, there is transparent (corruption-free), plurastic and grass-root level democracy in China, the divide between rich and poor will just increase and the current economic growth may not be sustainable.

Compartively speaking, India has a functioning democratic system with high penetration level right into villages ("panchyat system"), unfortunately, highly-corrupt at the same time. Nonetheless, the growth in India seems to be of organic nature - slow and steady. More like an "elephant" as oppossed to "roaring tiger". More of "brick-and-mortar" variety versus "dot-commish" bubble.

Naren Chawla
fremont, ca


China in the Red was certainly an ambitious project and you suceeded in providing a glimpse of common citizens going through this cataclysmic change.

However, I do feel your focus on only the two extreme ends of the economic spectrum showed an incomplete portrayal of the people of China. For example, you ignorned the burgeoning middle class or even lower middle class who are responsible for much of the economic growth. To only use Mr. Zhang Wu as the example of a benefactor of the economic change is a disservice, bordering on bias.

Dai-Shan Wong
houston, tx


I watched your progam "China in Red" yesterday evening. I was so moved.

As a student from China, I used to dislike those programs here that are about China. I found that there is a tendency of "uglyfing" China in Western media. But this one is so different. It showed deep concern to China and her people. Chinese people are now struggling for a better life. The problems we are facing are overwhelming: overpopulation, pollution, corruption, lacking of a democratic system, etc. We appreciate understanding like this. Thanks again for this wonderful work.

ames, ia


Thanks for this engrossing Frontline. I watched it with my 20 year old son who really had his eyes and mind opened. He was particularly moved by the 17 year old boy who went to the city for refrigeration training and ended up tearing a brick wall down.

I travel a lot and have always wanted to go to Beijing someday. I hope to go before the Olympics which I was told will change the city for the better. The stories were very moving and hope you do a recap of them in the future.

Sylvia Moher
auburn, nh


As a sinologist, I was quite skeptical about the programme when I first saw the trailer. I was indeed wrong. What an excellent programme! You have chosen an important period (1998-2002) in China's two decades of economic reform and made it understandable to the general public and useful to the specialist.

It was also a moving piece. I find myself worrying about the poor woman with the thyroid problem. It was certainly not reassuring when at the end, we were told that you were not permitted to return to the village for a follow-up. Perhaps, you can update us via this Website when you get more information??

Congratulations on a fine presentation!

B. G. Phan
los angeles, ca



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