Review & Comments: “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”

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  • How do you like the documentary “The people’s Republic of Capitalism” we watched last Thursday?
  • What impressed you most? What surprised you most?
  • How do you compare your life with any characters in the documentary? (the Missourian lady, her boss who moved factories to China, the Mexicans who worked on US cotton farms, the Chinese girl working on the production line, the Chinese high school student who comes from a poor rural area and her mother….)
  • What arguments made in the video you do NOT agree?

Please feel free to share your thoughtful comments and I look forward to exciting discussions with you.

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

25 thoughts on “Review & Comments: “The People’s Republic of Capitalism””

  1. I really liked the documentary “The People’s Republic of Capitalism.” What I most liked was how it didn’t just focus on the Chinese girl working in the production plant, which most documentaries tend to do. It included other people like the Missourian lady who lost her job because it was outsourced. I felt this contributed to the documentary having a rounded view on globalization. The viewer was able to see from first hand all the pros and cons of the effects of globalization on different people. While watching the documentary, it made me think about how the town over from my hometown used to have a big textile manufacturing industry. Since a lot of textile manufacturing is outsourced, the plants closed. Many people who worked in those plants years ago probably faced a similar situation as the women from Missouri did in the video.

    1. Thank you for the great comment! I also like how creatively and vividly the video expresses the idea that what we are all connected in a globalized world today. Although the Missourian lady, the Mexican workers and the Chinese factory workers never know each other and seem to be unrelated, their fates are tightly bounded together. Sometimes it is hard to say who the 100% winners are and who the 100% losers are. You may also enjoy a very interesting article last Friday in the NY Times about globalization and its associated debates: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/07/business/international/long-haul-expansion-by-a-norwegian-carrier-upsets-us-airlines.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0

  2. I truly enjoyed “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” documentary. It further opened my eyes to how profitable outsourcing is for corporations in America. It was interesting to see the different view points in the documentary from the Missourian lady who had lost her job to outsourcing, to the Chinese factory workers who work on the American designed products. It was even more interesting to me how globalization is one continuous loop. It is as if people are now forced to accept it because it has an impact on a part of everyones lives. Just like when the Missourian lady was upset when she was stripped of her job but constantly shopped at Walmart because of the low prices due to outsourcing. Just as you said, it is hard to say who the 100% winners or losers are. It is overall a love, hate relationship with globalization.

    1. I like your phrase “love-hate relationship with globalization”. Individual/company/country which enjoy competitive advantages of course would like to take advantage of globalization to reach more markets and generate more profits (like those multinationals). Those who are afraid of losing competition are naturally opposing globalization. However, I feel like standing still or resisting to globalization won’t solve the problems. Innovation is the only key for business as well as our individuals to survive in today’s globalized world.

  3. I liked “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” documentary because it was not like the depressing China Blue documentary. It was nice to see that China really has improved in the labor force. I definitely gave a new outlook on companies in America who outsource in different countries. I have lost respect for their characters as a human being, but at the same time I understand that cheap is better than expensive. It was sad to see innocent Americans who lost their jobs due to Chinese people gaining jobs, but its a part of globalism, and that will never change. People will continue to lose their jobs because someone else will gain a job.

    The documentary put a great view in perspective, we might not know anyone outside America, but we are all connected somehow. It was quite alarming to see that lady shop at Wal-Mart, she is buying those cheap items that were made by the people who took her job. But she really did not have a choice. Its not the circle of life, rather than the circle of globalization.

    1. great thoughts! As the word you use to describe the Missourian lady, hard working alone can no longer guarantee a promising future in today’s globalized economy. That’s why on the first day of our class, I encourage our students starting to care about what’s going on in the outside world and always having a big landscape of the industry in mind.

  4. I enjoyed the documentary “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”. It was very interesting and insightful, but I did not agree with everything that was said. I felt very bad for the lady from Missouri because her job was outsourced and I do understand that times are tough right now, but from the corporation’s point of view, I think that the move to China was worth it. It made more sense to move to China to save on time and labor alone. I do feel bad for the women, but we do have better jobs in the US and it is easier to get an education for those job (although it is not cheap, education for these jobs are possible). Even though many jobs have been lost to China and other countries due to outsourcing, thousands more are made everyday with marketing, retailing, promotions, etc. for the very product that is being outsourced. I do think this documentary gives a different outlook on businesses and corporations. It also makes you see that even when we don’t like outsourcing, we still support it. This was seen when the women who lost her job to outsourcing still went shopping at Wal-Mart and bought items made in China.

    1. Very thoughtful comments! I am with you. Now maybe you can better understand why the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program we mentioned in class was proposed. On the other hand, the nature of globalization is also changing. For example, with the advancement of internet and IT technology, globalization (or international trade) is no longer just about multinationals. Instead, more and more small and medium sized enterprises or even individuals are involved in today’s digital-based global economy. Think about the development of the apple application and the booming e-commerce. Maybe this is an opportunity for everyone to benefit as argued by some scholars, although competition will also get more intense.

  5. I found “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” very interesting. I honestly enjoyed watching it, because it brought a perspective of globalization that is never touched on. We are usually led to believe that it is a bad thing that our country outsources so often, but this video explained how our country is benefiting in the long run from trade and globalization. Even though some Americans are unfortunately losing their jobs, companies are producing more and therefore creating more jobs in other areas, such as retail stores. Globalization has positive and negative effects on everyone. It takes some American jobs away, but allows Americans to purchase more items at lower prices, because they are being produced overseas for much cheaper prices and in much larger quantities. I really enjoyed that this video touched on three different groups being affected by Globalization. It was interesting to see each side, because so often Americans only focus on the negative.

  6. I thought that the documentary “The people’s Republic of Capitalism” brought to light a lot of current hot-topic issues with regards to China and its emerging economy. For us, as Americans, it is hard to understand the disparity of the “rich” and “poor” in China. Even as college students who live off campus, one months rent and bills can total almost $800, which is, what some families make per year in China. I was impressed with the women who sent her daughter to get education, even though they give up half of their salary. The fact that they were putting education as their top priority gives them hope that they can increase their social mobility. It was surprising that the worker at the shipyard believed that America was the top economy and most wealthy country in the world. Mainly because China has a booming economy and is projected to surpass the United States with respect to the most powerful country in the world in the near future.
    I definitely have compassion for the women in the United States who had lost her job to Chinese production, yet do not think it was necessarily the wrong move. In order for American workers to sustain their higher added value jobs, some jobs need to be outsourced. However, there is a fine line between allocating increase profits from foreign production to increase innovation vs. sheer corporate greed. Similarly, the production trends are clothing trends; they are picked up by the masses giving corporations the ability to “piggyback” on this. At the end of the day, I believe that education is the most important aspect of this and any industry. With knowledge comes power. I did not agree with the Chinese father that wanted to keep his daughter home and work on the farm, he does not see the importance of education and the doors that it can open.
    When comparing my life to those of the Chinese and Mexican workers I note that it is very different. I could not imagine or fathom living on less than $1,000 a year. We are all humans and I believe that everyone should have a level playing field, but that is not the reality. There are some major differences, but striving for something better and our aspirations aren’t exactly the same they are similar in nature. Being successful is an extremely subjective concept and is indicative to our country, state/province and even neighborhood.
    I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of outsourcing jobs to create more profits, with only a few benefiting. I think that we could improve our position on the global supply chain if we maximized the utilization of our resources and produced as much as we could domestically.

    1. Such an excellent comment! I wish each student can read this! Your comment reminds me of the importance of helping students shape a global vision through our education. A global vision means far more than just knowing the economic benefits of globalization. It is also about enhancing mutual understanding among different cultures, realizing the critical world issues waiting for a solution and becoming a responsible global citizen who is willing to contribute to the building of a better world!

  7. I really enjoyed “The people’s Republic of Capitalism” even the title is interesting as China is The People’s Republic of China, but the Chinese economy is dabbling in capitalism in the 21st century as communism couldn’t support their growing population.
    I was intrigued to learn how interdependent the U.S. and China are on each other. Because we can all recognize how dependent we are on Chinese imports, but they are dependent on our business and the wealthy Chinese value American imports and craftsmanship. The story of the Ethan Allen couch was very ironic, how raw materials for the couch were shipped from America to China, and parts of the couch were manufactured in China, then shipped to America where it was assembled and finally it was sold to a wealthy Chinese couple in Chongqing.
    I think as Americans we are very egocentric and it is hard for myself to imagine being in the Chinese girls shoes, she is frustrated and understands she is working below her skill level so that Wall-mart can have the cheapest boom boxes. As Americans we are afforded more opportunity and higher wages. While I sympathize with the middle age woman who lost her job she was also very complacent and stagnant. In this environment if you aren’t trying to improve your skills and worth you will be replaced.
    I was happy too see that the Chinese youth are working on educating themselves so they can have better lives that their parents, although this means more competition for American students.

    1. Another excellent comment! PS, ” The story of the Ethan Allen couch was very ironic, how raw materials for the couch were shipped from America to China, and parts of the couch were manufactured in China, then shipped to America where it was assembled and finally it was sold to a wealthy Chinese couple in Chongqing.” this is so called “global supply chain”. Believe it or not, a pair of pants made in China for Zara is shipped to Spain first, even if the final destination is China. Companies are taking the best use of global resources in today’s global economy. that’s why the slogan of many multinationals are produce globally and sell globally.

  8. The documentary, “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” was much more interesting than I though it would be. The only documentary I have previously seen about outsourcing to China was “China Blue.” I thought “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” did a much better job showing all the different aspects of globalization.
    A part that really stood out to me was when Pam, who lost her job to China, said she shops at Walmart because it is cheap. Walmart is cheap because the merchandise is made in China. Pam benefits both positively (cheap prices at Walmart) and negatively (she lost her job) from globalization. Another point made in the documentary, that I found interesting, is that the poor in China are the country’s strength and weakness. There was such a big gap between the woman who bought the couch from Ethan Allen for her mansion and the men who break down buildings for $3-$4 a day. It seems that China needs both classes to survive.

  9. I really enjoyed the documentary shown in class, it definitely is an eye opener for a lot of people how maybe haven’t had a chance to travel to countries who are still developing in a lot of ways. It helps one understand why companies are moving to China because of the sheer number of people who hope to find a job in a factory because even the low wage they make there is more than a farmer or laborer makes. I thought it was interesting though in that it shows how countries that are considered developing countries with cheap labor are moving up into more developed territory. I think what you are seeing with the farmers working hard to send their daughter to boarding school so she can have a better life and a better job is a lot like what began happening in America in the mid century. People who were working in manufacturing jobs and low-skilled jobs began seeing the importance of their children’s education to rise above what they were and do better for themselves then previous generations. I think if the Chinese continue to send their children to higher levels of education the same type of outsourcing will begin to take place because they will have a higher ratio of highly skilled workers to low-skilled workers. This will begin companies search for the next developing country with a lot of people looking for a steady job with a wage they consider better than what they are making now. I also thought the way they showed the rising middle class in China was interesting. the fact that the couple bought a couch made in America because they believed the quality is better is funny. They are willing to spend more for goods made in America while Americans want the cheapest goods possible but also complain that there are no longer enough jobs in the states. Its an interesting juxtaposition. I really enjoyed the video as a whole and think it was incredibly balanced in its portrayal of the positives and negatives of globalization.

    1. Glad to hear. I hope now you have a clearer idea about what a “developing country” looks like and some of the issues it could face. On the other hand, although this documentary is recently produced, it is still lagging behind what is actually happening in the real world. For example, according to the latest survey conducted by the US-China Business Council, 97% of American companies which invest in China report that they move to China mainly to serve the LOCAL markets rather than to ship products made in China back to the States. Additionally, in recent years we are seeing more and more Chinese investors come to the US to open factories and stores. the fast moving global economy never stop amazing me!

  10. I liked the documentary “The people’s Republic of Capitalism” it was very interesting. I like how the film is not concentrated on the workers in China but also positive and negative effects on Everyone, not just in China but also Americans. While a lot of jobs are lost when the factories are moved overseas, prices for goods are much cheaper which benefits Americans consumers and also companies. I also find the middle class in China very interesting, they’re willing to spend more money on American made good while in US we try to save as much money as possible.

  11. I liked watching the documentary, “The People’s Republican of Capitalism” very much. I thought it had some interesting facts about China’s society and work environment that I didn’t know beforehand. I really liked how it didn’t narrow in on one specific area in the Chinese society, but rather gave a variety of different aspects of people’s lives. I found really interesting how products made for Ethan Allen started out using fabrics that were made in China for the upholstery, then constructed, sent back to the U.S and sent back to China for sale where it ended up in a Chinese household not too far from the factory where the fabric was made. I was really impressed how little pay the men and women were receiving for such tedious work. It makes sense to me now why U.S companies outsource to China for work like this because Americans would never do the jobs these Chinese people are doing for such little pay. It made me realize how different life is in the U.S compared to China. One specific example that made me realize this was watching the little high school girl travel so far to her boarding school from her hometown. She only visited her parents on the weekend and had to take multiple buses/cars to get there. It also shocked me how much money her parents were paying for their daughters education and that the father thought it was a waste of their hard work. It really made me think of how valuable my education is and that I am even lucky to be able to afford to go to college.

    1. Great thoughts! I agree that the documentary touches many interesting aspects of modern China which could be of little knowledge to the American students/general public. This is why I include this documentary in the class with the hope that it could help our students realize how “different” and “diversified” this world is. And the issues you observed from the documentary are various in nature as well. For example, outsourcing is an economic phenomenon, but the social value/expectation for female’s role in rural China is largely about culture. Culture is something which may take longer time to expect a fundamental change. Now you may rethink about the concept of “development” we mentioned in the class. As I said, it means more than economic growth, but also refers to human development and social development. On the other hand, not sure if you agree or not, some social issues (like inequality) is closely connected with the “capitalism” adopted in China in the past 30 years.

  12. I really enjoyed the documentary “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”. It was interesting to see both sides of globalization and how it affects everyone differently. The lady from the US who worked for a company that up and moved over to China, which caused her to lose her job, but create more jobs in China. I personally don’t know much about the global industry in China, so this documentary showed many different aspects of the industry over in China. This documentary helps people, especially students understand why so many companies now have their factories over in China. The labor costs are much less, and you can hire many, many more workers and get the job done quicker then it would have been done if the factory was in the US. I really enjoyed how the video also touched base on the Chinese culture. The one girl who went to boarding school to get a better education rather then staying home and working on the farm was a very important part of this documentary. She could only travel the long distance home to see her family on the weekends, and even that was a hassle to get there due to all the busses, taxis, etc that she had to take. Her mother wanted her to go to school to get an education so she can get a good job when she is older, but her father disagreed saying that only the men should be going to school, the women should be staying at home. This documentary made me realize how different living in China is versus the United States. I feel very lucky that I have the opportunity to go to college, and have both my parents agree. When I leave college, I will get a good paying job where I can live on my own and afford to do so. This documentary showed a balanced perspective on the positives and negatives of globalization. You have the US losing jobs, and China gaining jobs, but the US is saving money and getting things done at a more rapid pace.
    Another interesting fact is that the United States and China are constantly working together in order to make merchandise. Ethan Allen, the furniture company, gets the fabric from china, makes the furniture in the United States, and then sells their merchandise back in China. The Chinese couple that were “high class” said that they buy American products because the quality is outstanding. Then, people in the United States, like Pam who lost her job to China, shop at Wal-Mart because of the cheaper prices. Wal-Mart’s merchandise is made in China, and also sold in the United States in order to make the merchandise more affordable because it doesn’t cost as much to make products in China. This goes to show how in order for a global economy to work, we, as countries, need to work together.

    1. good comment! One point I would like to discuss with you. In my view globalization doesn’t simply make the US lose jobs and China gain jobs. Rather, I feel it is more accurately to say, certain low-end jobs are leaving the US and moving to China (or other developing countries) because of globalization, but at the same time, more higher-end/better paid jobs are being created in the US because resources (such as capital and human resources) are saved. Just like the smiling curve we mentioned, manufacturing is only part of the value chain. More design & merchandising jobs are saved & created in the US because manufacturing jobs are moved overseas. and the finished products don’t have to be sold in the US, but rather can go global–target the international markets (just like making a bigger cake). What do you think?

  13. In the documentary, “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” it discussed both sides of globalization and how it affects everyone differently. I enjoyed the documentary and how it relates to the articles we previously had to read for our first assignment. I was surprised by the amount of people who are unaware of the pros and cons of globalization. Like the women, Pam, who lost her job due to the globalization of the company she worked for was very upset that she had to find a new job but also said that her and her husband shop at Wal-Mart because of the everyday low prices, which is what globalization allows; lower cost. Something that impressed me in the documentary was one of the Chinese girls attended school, which her family spent most of their income paying for. She lived at the school and didn’t take her education for granted. The fact her mother said her father did not want her to get an education because she is a girl and doesn’t need it is upsetting. The mother was determined for her daughter to get an education and she made it happen. Comparing my life to those in the documentary I can somewhat relate because I do not come from a wealthy family, but education is very important to my parents and they want me to get a degree for a better future. Although my life is not as rough as some of the people in the documentary, I understand where they are coming from and how they have to work hard for everything they get. Most of the arguments in the video have reasons to them and go back and fourth with explanations, so it is difficult to say which is right and which is wrong.

  14. This documentary was quite interesting and worth watching because it opened my eyes to many peoples points of views on globalization over a large spectrum. Rather than just focus on Chongqing or on the United States specifically, the focus was on both places and their participations in production plans. The audience could grasp the positive and negative aspects of globalization in two different countries, rather than just choose a side out of spite on who may be better. When just browsing online, watching the news, or glancing through the newspaper and seeing that jobs relating to our area of professional interest, I used to feel upset and angry not realizing anything else besides the fact that that is less opportunity for us. Now, I understand how all individuals of many different backgrounds/cultures are able to come together as a group and be fortunate enough to work together to help one another. Even if jobs opportunities seem better elsewhere than the U.S, we are still being helped out to our further advantage. It is not like we do not have any opportunity at all because we do; some just may not seem like the best in our interest or matching our feeling of “advanced” skills. As people were saying in previous comment, I must agree that there is a vicious cycle with globalization whereas no one is ever going to be 100% happy and it is something we just need to live with and make the best out of the situation. Besides that, it is difficult to fully put myself in another person’s shoes, such as the teenage girl working at a factory in Chongqing or the Missourian lady because that is not what it is like for me as of now. I can sympathize with both of them, especially the teenager who has a repetitive & tedious job that does not acquire a living wage who has higher skill levels than what is being used. Sometimes I feel that way with both of my retail jobs. I feel as if I have better qualified skills that cannot be put to the full test because it is not what is wanted of me. The jobs are simple and not challenging but it is some sort of income; just like the teenage girl. As for the Missourian lady who has had the same job for some odd years and having to start with a clean slate basically, I cannot imagine that feeling of a total loss on what is to come next.

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