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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?


I am a frequent business traveler to China and have been fortunate to travel to several areas, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an and the Inner Mongolia province.

You provided an outstanding balance of culture, business and politics for a complicated country in transition. I learned so much from your program, somehow missing some of the issues you brought to our attention. I plan to buy a copy of the program for my library.

Thank you again for a marvelous, entertaining and educational journey to China.

Thomas Bristow
rochester, new york


What a tremendous amount of dedication and professionalism went into this production. I was overwhelmed by the people and how you allowed their lives to unfold. It was of particular importance that this story unfold over a period of years (watching the photographer question the definition of stability only to come back to that same need after his mother died was a priceless lesson to watch)

I am writing however to request that if you find a way to donate funds to the lady with the thyroid problem or the lady with the husband who had the stroke please let me know via email. My heart goes out to them and I am sure there are countless more ladies just like them. Kudos to you and kudos to PBS!!! May your tribe increase!

D. C. Washington
woodbridge, va


As an African American who spends a good deal of time with inner-city youths, many times their only impression of Chinese people are immigrants who have become successful business people owning businesses in their neighborhoods.

This documentary gives valuable insight as to how the lives of poor people are interconnected. The sickly woman in the documentary appears to be locked in a cycle of poverty that her daughter may inherit without ever having the chance to succeed in life due to her lack of education. Inner city children here in the US are often caught in the same cycle of poverty.

Often immigrants view the plight of the underclass in America as somehow being entirely "their own fault". Documentaries like these tell us that governmental policy, changes in a societies social fabric, and geography, all play a part in peoples development everywhere in the world.

Thank you Frontline.

thad garrison
nyc, ny


Thank you so much not only for honestly documenting these everyday Chinese life, their pains and their hopes, but also for letting us in the States to share their experience and hope.

It is vitally important for people in the U. S. to have chance to see the struggle and pursuance of real Chinese people, and I can only hope that Chinese people have a chance like this to see the real U. S.

As a Chinese living in America, I sensed the propaganda and demonization on both sides: the cowardice of big broadcasting company trying or having to falling in line, needless to say the phoniness on Chinese TV. You exemplary work is the banner and way to TV broadcasting.

Thank you again for your excellent work and I look forward to see more work like this!

David Yang
state college, pa


As a Chinese, I am really inpressed by your program. It is detailed and most importantly, you have not tailored the materials to fit some kind of unaccurate ideas about China and Chinese. I can say It is a true story, just like the story I can get from unbiased anthropologists.

What I want to say is that when the word "communism" is used, it deserves an explaination because it has fussy meaning.In China it is not a social development target but mostly a moral tenant for some people now. China never claim itself as "communism" state because it is too far to reach. It only thinks itself as socialism.

Another thing I want to mention is that, maybe you can add a visit to managers and workers in a foreign company in China.

Maybe you can make a serial like this about China. For example, you can concerntrate on the government re-structuring. The education system changing, pop culture. and so on.

I know it is defficult to do all of this, that is why I feel grateful to your program.

tonglu lee
lansing, mi


Thanks for this great documentary "China in Red". I watched this program without any stop, and even forgot to go to bathroom. For the first time, I recorded it with my VCR which has not been used for years.

I came to USA four years, and have never been back to China. So everything about China makes me excited and homesick.

From this program, we can see a real China. Despite a lot of problems, some even fundmental, China is still a booming and prosperous country, with huge progress during 1998-2002. This can be seen from more smiles on the faces of ordinary people and the improvement of their living condition.

For example, when the lady in Chestnut Flower Village was interviewed, she wore an pink and embroided shirt, obviously specifically for this interview, this is much different from the blue male-like suit she had worn in last interview.

Also, the anti-corruption compaign has achieved some progress, the Mayor of Shenyang had been sentenced to death with two years suspension for corruption.....This showes that justice is functioning, if not quite well and always.

To me, the worst thing untolerable is that business man Wu Zheng had gotten the birth certificate of another son throgh bribe, relations and a sort of donation to hospital, even in Beijing where the birth control is strictly conducted. There is a Chinese saying, "with money, the Ghost can push the mills", this time, it is valid again.

Anyway, China is doing very well, and I love this country, my homeland. Best wish for a modern, democratic and rich China in the future.

Thank you again, Frontline and Sue Williams, for this wonderful film.

Zhihong Zhu, PhD
new york, ny


I would like to congratulate the authors of the program with an outstanding piece of documentary work.

I turned on PBS by chance and could not stop watching. I have never been to China - know little about everyday life there, but all the faces, feelings, and thoughts of ordinary and unordinary Chinese people shown by the authors with sincerity, kindness, and painful soul seeking made me one step closer to China and to those 10 people shown in the documentary, struggling in their everyday life for a better future of their children.

Igor Efimov
cleveland, oh


Thank you for providing the best documentary about China!

Ordinary people endure the pain of the social transition while still keep hope (at least for their children). I just hope more Chinese people could also see this documentary, especially young people in big cities.

Could PBS/Frontline grants the right to let people to post video file of this documentary on their web site or file-sharing service (like Kazza )? So it can break into the Great Firewall of China.

west lafayette, in

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
This program,"China in the Red," is being video streamed in full on this web site (in Windows Media and Real Player). Unfortunately, as the writer mentions, the PBS/FRONTLINE web site is blocked in China so it's very hard for Chinese to view it . To learn more about China and the Internet, see the "Democracy" section of this web site.


As a Chinese American, this film has brought me back the memroires that may have faded away. I was bron in Beijing in the early 60s and raised in HK. Not that I can say I've tasted their bitterness, yet there are many things in your film that I can relate myself.

After watching the film, while my wife was battling with my three years old crying for his bottle at 2am. I wrote the following:

Unknown marks the roads ahead, Ye hath seen China in Red. At corner of two paths cross, finding thy ways, Fate dearest, yet many, lost. Ere the break of day, Ere the break of day.

I am not a poet, nor my English is worth to show off, but that is exactly what I feel about the China that your film has reminded me.

Steven Wu
tempe, az


Beautiful documentary. I especially loved the music and sound design. While the "Birth of the Beijing Music Scene" portion of this website provides a comprehensive overview, [Cui Jian, et al], very little was mentioned of Jason Kao Hwang, credited for original music on the project.

I would be most interested in learning more about him, perhaps to purchase some of his own work. Is there an accompanying soundtrack to the documentary? A link to his website would be helpful as well.

While my comments may seem slightly off topic, I would be happy to contribute to all these musician's own "market economies" by looking into and purchasing their music!

Stephen Reyburn
vancouver, british columbia


The songs that were sung in the first hour were done by a Asian female with a hauntingly-beautiful voice (when showing film about people in the poverty-stricken village), in fact the whole program had great sound and music. My hats off to your music selection and sound staff! Is there a CD with the music from this program?

Also, the information in the program was presented so plainly and honestly, and the films/art/pictures/narrator captured the events so vividly, so a big applause to the creators of this program!

I didn't realize that China had turned its back on its entire population, while many (if not most) were only paid minimum wage (which is a helluva lot less than in the US). Before that, everyone had a job who wanted one, and no one seemed unhappy. I too would be happy if I worked for a company (read: have-ers) who shared the wealth with the employees (read: have-nots) by providing all their needs for free, including much-needed medical attention after they retired or became disabled!

We all know there's only so much a good man or woman can take before they decide that enough is enough, so it's only a matter of time before these millions of people rise up and clean up the mess that the rich have made.

Stepping down off my soapbox...thanks for presenting such a wonderful program! I rarely write my 2-cents about anything, but this was really good!! Please let me know about the CD.

jacksonville, fl

FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Unfortunately, there is no CD of the music from this program. However, beginning Feb.15, the whole program is available in video streaming here on this web site. Thus you can listen to the song to which the writer refers -- "Wild Flower" by Tian Zhen -- Just click on "Chapter 3" in the video section. This music comes at the very beginning of this section.


I enjoyed this documentary film very much. I lived in China and Taiwan during 1981-99, and saw the incredible social, political, and cultural changes that both societies have undergone in the past 20 years. I was going back and forth between China and Taiwan in the early-mid 1980s when Taiwan was still under martial law and it was forbidden for Chinese in Taiwan to visit their families in China; I served as a "bridge", taking letters and gifts to give to families that had been separated for over 40 years!

I continue my travels to China and Taiwan, even though I moved back to Florida a few years ago. I created an educational and entertaining troupe that travelled to the "4 Chinas" (Taiwan, HK, Macau, and mainland) during the Year of the Dragon (2000), and documented this historical event. We also documented a Journey To The East odyssey in 2001 into rural western China, following the same route I had taken 20 years earlier.

The changes have been monumental, and yet there is still beauty in the simplicity of rural China.

Rhett Farber
jacksonville, florida


As I watched the show, several internal levels of watching, listening and learning transformed into very intense levels of "comparison"---comparison based on personal experiences with daily living, work, gov't, loving, children, etc. I drifted from learning about China to questioning What is Culture? & What are the worlds problems?

Attire, meals, physical differences and even architecture are not significant differences, they are simply different. Some people like different, some do not. Some like it until the newness wears off. Underneath such a very thin "skin" of culture, I noted very few differences.

I concluded, and will continue to think about; 1) the basic types of problems they have are the same as ours--it's the general level and distribution of wealth that is different, 2) good people are good people anywhere you go, 3) are other countries' corruption problems simply more sophisticated than theirs? 4) Success by those with short term thinking has a very negative effect on much of the world.

Thank you for this extremely fine report. It affected much differently than I had thought it might.

high point, nc


It's possible to see how problems that China has could be problems for us here in the U.S. in the not so distant future. Many here lack medical insurance thus depriving them of necessary medication yet we lack the will to demand a national medical care system similar to that of most European countries. The Chinese governments, both at local and national levels, suffer from corruption. But is this much different from all of the illegal bookkeeping going on in this country? The real danger is for us to assume that a free market system is superior to a centralized controlled system. It's true only if safeguards exist to protect investors from corporate leaders that cook their books making it appear that their companies are in good shape financially when, in reality, only their own bank accounts are in good shape. We also suffer from corporations that, through creative accounting, pay no federal taxes though their profits are high.

Finally, I see our system of public education being underfunded for lack of a focus on education for the greater good of the country. A result is the wealthy are more and more withdrawing from the public education system and focusing on private education for their children. This will undermine the public school system, the system that gave them the education to succeed in the workplace.

Gayland Hokanson
raleigh, nc


After returning from China a little more than a month ago, I watched this documentary deep interest. I am a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and became seriously interested in "exploring China" after traveling to and studying the Long March in China with one of my professors, Anne Thurston. My most recent trip was to Zhejiang Univerisity to was continue my study of the Chinese language and well as do some job hunting. My interest in teaching lead me to the Peace Corps and I recently learned that I was invited to serve in China.

Anne Thurston made an interesting comment regarding the "three represents," something I became more aware of on my most recent trip to China. During the 16th Party Congress, in October 2002, I saw banners and pictures going up everywhere in praise of Presidents Jiang's accomplishments with along with instructions to follow the ideas presented in the Party Congress. I think we as Americans need to understand that China, even as its becomes more open, its is still a nation governed by doctrine and propaganda. I think if you look at Taiwan and even South Korea, both nations that made the transition from authoritarian to pluralist political systems, you see a way in which China may transform itself politically. But the problems in China are of much greater proportion due to its size, population and status as a nuclear power. I think grassroots elections at the village level are a good start to educating people about the how to run a free and open election etc., but as Anne Thurston said the CCP's reluctance to cede power is and continues to be the main reason why a more pluralist political system can't take root.

Thank You

Sanjay Srikantiah
cambridge, oh



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