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on 8 May 2013
This is a glossy Niall Ferguson documentary which charts the economic situation in modern China in 3 perfect parts. It's got a catchy introduction and during the course of the programme covers the cultural changes undergone in China during the past few decades, interviewing unique individuals and visting places of political importance. It's a documentary for both experienced economists and beginners alike, with plenty of variety and really punchy issues. In fact, I didn't normally buy documentaries of this kind, but enjoyed this particular one so much that I actually went out of my way to order this DVD online.

Recommended for anyone who loves China or is concerned about the economy of the world in general. I'd also recommend it to motorcycle enthusiasts as there's a giant Ducati factory involved. Or to collectors of Niall Ferguson material (if there are any). Forget feature films - sometimes it's more exciting to get stuck into some real-life adventure!
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VINE VOICEon 26 February 2014
With its stellar economic rise since the death of Mao Zedong, more focus needs to be placed on the Chinese in order to understand the ascendant pre-eminent 21st Century World Power. Anyway, that is what the Chinese themselves believe.

The questions that require answers or at least some insights whether China will survive in its current form as an authoritarian state or whether the Chinese people will rebel in their quest for something more akin to Western values.

The first episode deals with the Communist Party's belief that to prevent the inevitable turmoil that is a consequence of change or reform, all such activities need to be severely repressed. Their treatment of the innocuous Falun Gong is a case in point. All forms of protest are treated as dissent & savagely repressed. In spite of a Capitalist economy, the political reins are tightly held by the Communist government. Niall Ferguson makes the analogue with ancient Chinese dynasties & emperors in that all held the same belief in rigid central control.

I found the second episode entitled Maostaliga eye opening. Despite Mao being the architect of two of the greatest disasters in world history let alone Chinese history, in the eyes of the Chinese public, no culpability resides with Mao himself. Collective amnesia about the turbulent past pervades the Chinese. Even though unspoken in the DVD, I wondered whether pervasive censorship & omnipresent propaganda has prevented the Chinese from obtaining a true sense of the tragedy that befell them.

The final episode deals with the economic issues & how it will affect all of us in the future. In order to get a sense of that future, Niall Ferguson interviews both Chinese factory owners in Zambia & their black Zambian workers. The contrast could not be starker! The Chinese work 9 hour days 7 days a week, 360 days a year whereas their Black employees amble along at a sedate pace with ne'er a care in the world. In spite of wages being on a par with the Chinese, the locals feel victimised & exploited. This situation does not bode well for all the incipient Chinese businesses outside their homeland. A cultural clash is sure to arise in the medium term.

This DVD cannot & does not do justice to such as vast topic. Instead three eclectic topics have been selected & some sense of the issues involved & their nuances dealt with. One can argue that there are more intractable or pressing issues, but Niall Ferguson has pitched a stake in the ground to get the debate & understanding going for this is an issue that affects us all in the rest of the world.

Niall's eloquence & ability to turn a phrase is yet again evident. What was disappointing & detracting was the repetition of a number of clips which would never occur in a BBC production.
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on 12 March 2013
I bought this DVD solely after having watched it on television, and wanting to see it again, as I think it's very good. But, strewth! Reading some of the reviews, people have taken Niall Ferguson's programme very seriously indeed. Fair enough, you might say, it's a serious subject, but this doesn't purport to be a full & extensive history of China. That could take twenty episodes or more! What this does, and does very well, is give a populist view (remember, it was first put out on a Sunday evening on Channel 4, so had to attract the masses) of a subject, which, whatever our viewpoint, will have repercussions for us us all. The stunning & impressive economic rise of China over the last two decades has already materially affected us in the West, for whom, as I take it, Ferguson intended the programme should be seen. I don't want to fall into the same trap as others here, & go off on a big political rant. What Ferguson has done for us here, is given us three forty-seven minute episodes, which nicely precis the situation: That we shouldn't just take note of easily affordable products (as the Dragon's Den wallahs say, "what's the Chinese price for each unit"?), we should also be looking at how it's made, and how it changes OUR manufacturing base, and, inevitably, how it negatively impinges on employment in the West. This is good stuff, people in the UK should be made to watch it....
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This short series consists of three 45 minute essays about Chinese economic development over the last century, and how it may be approaching the edge of an abyss which would make the current Euro crisis look like very small beans indeed. It's intelligent, thought-provoking television - although you may not agree with all of the conclusions...
The presenter is historian/economist Prof Niall Ferguson, who takes an extended trip around modern day China to demonstrate his themes and meet `typical' key players in the new Chinese economy. Ferguson is an engaging presenter with a neat turn of phrase; perhaps a touch inclined towards the over-dramatic, and with a slightly uncomfortable tendency to play-act to extremes for the camera. However he presents an interesting history and raises some genuine concerns. I wish he wouldn't ask/answer quite so many repetitive questions, however!
In the `historical' episodes, Ferguson dwells on the development of the communist state, and is shocked (or acts as if he's shocked) to discover that Mao is a popular hero among the people today. Yet Mao was responsible for the death and suffering of millions during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution -- more than Stalin and Hitler put together, if we believe Ferguson's addition! There are some older folk from rural areas who recall how half the village population died during the famines, and we meet one entrepreneur who now owns a successful motorcycle factory, but spent a decade in prison earlier in his life. It's not explained how he made the transition from `criminal' to `businessman' and that would have been fascinating. Instead his rehabilitation is used to demonstrate how the Chinese state has incorporated previously outlawed activities into its evolving economic model.

In all three episodes Ferguson encounters frantic social and industrial activity all over China, as the `miracle economy' becomes the biggest in the world. He explains how the communist government has maintained stability during a period of unprecedented, capitalist-style growth - largely by imposing controls upon personal freedoms which most Westerners find unacceptable.
The final programme highlights many of the dangers in the current situation, which are directly relevant to us in the UK as our economy is intrinsically linked to the Chinese one. The creeping ubiquity of corruption throughout China's bureaucracy is exactly the kind of obvious injustice which can stimulate genuine revolution, for instance. Ferguson then travels away from China to examine the Chinese influence on other parts of the world - buying up copper mines in Africa, out-sourcing labour to other areas but paying the same low rates as unskilled Chinese workers would receive.
The conclusion is a little chilling, especially as the UK needs investment from Chinese sovereign funds to shore up our own flaking financial institutions and public amenities. Ferguson asks if the transition of global power from west to east can actually be accomplished peacefully; and for the answer to that we'll have to wait and see...

I felt that in some areas this series veered between superficial observations (yes, there may be people `worshipping' statues of Mao, but we have plenty of customs which would look equally weird to other cultures), and scary prophecies of possible doom. In suggesting that China now might be as dangerous as Germany was in the 1930s, Ferguson cherry-picks his facts accordingly, and avoids mentioning little historical events like the opium wars and the recent western collusion in money-laundering illegal Chinese profits.
So although this was an interesting series, I was disappointed that it was less of a considered analysis of the situation and more like hyped-up scaremongering. Perhaps it's the nature of TV documentaries now, but I felt that Ferguson could have gone into greater depth and with a bit less sensationalism. Entertaining viewing, however.
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on 30 October 2013
I have had the great pleasure of living there for 5 years.

This dvd is packed with so much information. I have watched it several times and learn something new each time.I hope things never go wrong there for the people, but it could be a scary place to be as foreigner if you are there when it does.
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on 29 April 2016
Good documentary, provides a fresh and illuminating perspective.

Ignore those one star reviews written by political fanatics.
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on 16 November 2014
yes i am pleased with it
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on 2 July 2015
Really good documentary
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on 22 April 2012
Allow me to comment as a member of Chinese civilisation but now being overseas.

Professor Ferguson says in the first episode of this TV programme that two thousand years ago there was no China. This is not correct as most people know. Perhaps he meant to say that there was no China under one authoritarian emperor. Then that is a plausible assertion. Before the Qin (Chin) dynasty of the First Emperor, we have the period of the Warring States and before that the Spring and Autumn period. Both of these two periods are part of the Zhou dynasty, during which there was a line of kings -- the Sons of Heaven of the Zhou dynasty -- overseeing numerous feudal states. That was the genuine feudal period of China. But this Chinese feudalism ended with the subjugation of the final six states by the military might of Chin-shih-huang-ti (Qinshihuangdi, the First Emperor).

The feudal China before the First Emperor, especially during the periods of Spring and Autumn and the Warring States from the 8th century BCE through the 3rd century BCE, saw much competition in intellectual terms, a competition not unlike the one that Professor Ferguson postulates in his "Civilisation" TV series and book.

Confucius, who lived during the Spring and Autumn period some 500 years before Jesus Christ, may just be one of those intellectual thinkers who were numerous during that time. Confucian philosophy, being non-religious, is a set of ethical standards for being a good ("ren", or as commonly translated, "benevolent") person, as a commoner, an official or a king. His sayings, collectively known as "The Analects", rarely endorse authoritarian rule by a king (as far as I can understand). In Japan, today "The Analects" still holds great respect, and there are juvenile books there for training children in his ethics (one set was compiled by a female author). In South Korea, Confucius is still held in high regard too. Confucian ethics is ethics period.

A Confucian saying that I always remember is to admonish the "ren" people to act upright, to be dutiful and to be faithful to others, anywhere, even when one is going to the lands of the barbarians.

In later stages of Chinese history, probably emperors find it handy to appropriate Confucianism as a tool of governance. That Confucian ethics got institutionalised as a religion would be beyond the sage's comprehension.

With the clarification above, I think this programme is highly recommendable.
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on 8 June 2015
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