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Young & Restless in China

With the Olympics only months away, the spotlight is definitely shining on China now. There have been many talks and documentaries on China and Chinese society like we mentioned. Here is another one. PBS’s Frontline just released a new documentary called Young & Restless in China, which bills itself as

An intimate look into the lives of nine young Chinese, coming of age in a society that’s changing at breathtaking place.

You can view it online. It is worth a look, even if it offers a few limited cut-away views, rather than a cross-section, but they did try to pick “ordinary” people.

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  1. Buxi
    June 18th, 2008 at 06:02 | #1

    Just finished watching that on a local broadcast of PBS!

    Thought it was done well, an interesting look at the lives of “young” people (ranging from 19 to 35 at the beginning of the documentary) over the course of 4 years, from 2004 through 2007.

    It seemed at times to be a little forced, as if the editors were working with a script that they picked events to fit into… like the one year where everyone simultaneously had relationship problems… but all in all, it’s a detailed look at Chinese life from the perspective *of* the Chinese, and I recommend it on that basis alone.

  2. June 18th, 2008 at 06:05 | #2

    Hey, thanks for posting this video up. I thought it was really interesting, especially since I want to do business in China!

  3. ChinkTalk
    June 18th, 2008 at 14:18 | #3

    Just wondering if we can get the Chinese side of this story:

    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/06/18/china-dissident.html

  4. AC
    June 18th, 2008 at 14:32 | #4

    A- from me, well done. I think it’s much better than her previous work “China in the Red”.

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/red/

    I agree with Buxi, there is definitely a script. But at least they let the characters tell their own stories instead of putting words in their mouths with narrations or “expert’s insight” like the other documentaries. That puts BBC’s “A Year in Tibet” to shame.

    I noticed a scene at Haiyan’s mother’s village, there is a propaganda slogan painted on a wall, it says “Rewards for one-boy or two-girl families.” Evidentally the cameraman is Chinese who understands the meaning. But I wonder why they didn’t translate it, since it would explain why Haiyan’s mother was kidnaped…

  5. Buxi
    June 18th, 2008 at 15:12 | #5

    Just wondering if we can get the Chinese side of this story:

    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/06/18/china-dissident.html

    Does this deserve its own topic? I don’t know that it does.

    It’s interesting. I went to ObserveChina, the dissident website that she supposedly wrote for… and the only story it had on her being detained came from the BBC. Perhaps they don’t know who she is either…? Based on the description in the article though, she must’ve been the author of these articles (under the pen-name Shan Shan):

    http://www.observechina.com/info/artshow.asp?ID=49535
    http://www.observechina.com/info/artshow.asp?ID=49501
    http://www.observechina.com/info/artshow.asp?ID=49485

    This one paragraph is pretty representative of what she wrote:

    The Chinese Communist Clique is an immoral and incompetent gang, blood-suckers who steal the people’s lives and property, the criminal masterminds that exacerbated the scale of this disaster.

    As far as my side of the story… well, as I said earlier, China’s dissident situation is half full. There’s clearly much more room for public discussion and scrutiny of government, and popular focus from everything on school construction to missing tents is proof of that.

    But China is not at the point yet where this sort of hateful, anti-Communist Party, anti-People’s Republic of China rhetoric is legally acceptable. I think we’ll get there eventually, probably in a few decades. But speaking personally now, I’m not in much of a hurry. I do believe in the value of open speech, and I believe that this type of speech (as inflammatory as it might be) should not result in criminal prosecution… but I also don’t believe preserving this type of open speech should be high on the priority list during China’s current phase of development.

    In the mean time, I believe anyone who crosses this red line doesn’t do so accidentally. This isn’t someone outraged by a specific incident who couldn’t control her passions. This is someone writing with a purpose.

  6. Buxi
    June 18th, 2008 at 15:14 | #6

    I noticed a scene at Haiyan’s mother’s village, there is a propaganda slogan painted on a wall, it says “Rewards for one-boy or two-girl families.” Evidentally the cameraman is Chinese who understands the meaning. But I wonder why they didn’t translate it, since it would explain why Haiyan’s mother was kidnaped…

    AC,

    Nice catch! I caught the first part of that, except for some reason on my screen the right side was cut off… so I didn’t catch the “reward” part. (一孩两女什么什么)

    But you lost me… why does it explain why Haiyan’s mother was kidnapped?

  7. AC
    June 18th, 2008 at 15:23 | #7

    But you lost me… why does it explain why Haiyan’s mother was kidnapped?

    Because those farmers prefer boys, the result is men can’t find wives in those villages, so they pay kidnapers to kidnap women from other places…

  8. June 18th, 2008 at 17:41 | #8

    Buxi #5,

    Thanks for some background on the story.
    To my Western ears, the paragraph you quoted isn’t so bad… no advocacy of blowing stuff up, a bit over the top in rhetoric, but I tend to turn off shock jocks.

    However, when the story gets reported in the CBC, the author’s language gets sanitized and presentable. Their story is about oppressive China silencing a rational voice. There isn’t any effort to understand what was objectionable. No exploration of this “red line” you mention. No effort to determine what is actually being said about the collapse of the schools. Instead, the tragedy is used as a means to make the suppression seem more heinous. Reading the article, one would conclude that any discussion about corruption or reasons why the schools collapsed is being aggressively suppressed in China.

    I am interested in this red line. Knowing where this line is and how to work around it is important when speaking about corruption and legal reforms.

    I have a link to another story that I’m curious about.
    http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/local/story.html?id=a0889bc1-decc-4f3a-b1db-2d7dc5b9f933
    To recap quickly, this story is about corruption in a remote rural town that almost cost a wife and daughter their insurance payment due to them from the death of her husband.

    Henan province, where Liu lives, is far from the controls of the central government, said Timothy Cheek, professor at the University of British Columbia’s Institute of Asian Research.
    There are few controls on local administrators, he said. “Just like here, if you win the lottery, shysters come after you. There will be plenty of that in China because the world that she lives in has far fewer rules.”
    “The thing that will most likely predict a happy outcome is the strength of her family network.”

    Now that the attempted fraud is found out, what consequences will there be for the participants of the fraud?
    Would this be a story that would even be picked up locally?

  9. Buxi
    June 19th, 2008 at 06:39 | #9

    @MutantJedi,

    I am interested in this red line. Knowing where this line is and how to work around it is important when speaking about corruption and legal reforms.

    The official title of the crime is: “inciting subversion of state power”, so that gives you some idea of where the red line is. Here’s a long essay (from a human rights group) analyzing the crime from their point of view.

    By Western standards, this woman wouldn’t be guilty of “inciting”; she doesn’t give a specific call for immediate violent action. But by current standards in China, generally speaking, it seems like when you advocate a rejection of the *system* entirely, even if you don’t explicitly give instructions on what should be done about it… you’re crossing the red line.

    Now that the attempted fraud is found out, what consequences will there be for the participants of the fraud? Would this be a story that would even be picked up locally?

    Interesting story!

    I doubt there’d be any consequences. This kind of petty fraud is just so common. If you watched the above PBS video, you would’ve read about the adult woman who was literally kidnapped and sold into a different province. And the truth is, that still happens today. In largely illiterate, very poor villages, the concept of law is basically non-existent. You wouldn’t believe the kind of stuff that happens in parts of China today, which is why I personally am pessimistic about the prospects of democracy in the near future.

    I was just watching a local show last night about a man who made a forged document in order to marry a second woman, without divorcing the first (because he didn’t want to split his assets). I know that sort of thing happens in the West too… but this man + his new wife lived in the *same community* as his previous wife. I think he honestly didn’t think there would be any consequences to this kind of forgery… and fortunately in this case, there is. He was arrested for polygamy.

    In the case in Henan that you talk about, I don’t know that any law was actually broken. Did the fraudsters actually sign a legal, binding document claiming to be someone else, or did they just “lie”? If it’s the latter, that’s not even worthy of mention in modern China.

  10. May 25th, 2011 at 01:20 | #10

    Just watched the documentary, and I generally thought it was good, for that it gave a lot of texture into a recent modern China – one that I can identify with.

    Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

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