Discussion: The People’s Republic of Capitalism

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  • What does the documentary impress you most or surprise 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….)
  • How do you see the dilemma of globalization and international trade from the documentary?
  • What arguments in the video do you disagree or have different viewpoints?
  • Do you have any discussion questions to ask your classmates about the documentary?

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

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

17 thoughts on “Discussion: The People’s Republic of Capitalism”

  1. I thought the most interesting aspect in the documentary, “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” was how children in the Chinese culture are learning from a young age how to be a part of a global market, whether they realize it or not. By teaching children English and having them develop skills with technology, the Chinese culture is creating a future generation that will readily be capable of becoming a part of the global marketplace. It seems that global business affects citizens of China more than people in countries like the United States because so many people in China work in factories and companies that are creating products that will, for the most part, return to western countries.

    1. I completely agree that one of the most interesting aspects of this documentary was how young the children are when they are taught to be apart of a global market. What I found particularly remarkable was the fact that the English words being taught the class of young children included “dress” “pant” & “shirt” for example. This sets a path for this future generation of their involvement in the marketplace. Another person that I found interesting was the Chinese high school student and her mother. Her mother wanted her daughter to get an education, while her father and his family were completely against it. I found it sad that just because she is a girl, she should not be educated according to her father. It goes to show how important being able to work in a factory is to these families overseas. I thought this documentary was very informative with the topics of international trade and globalization.

      1. Great comments both! It may sound even more surprising to you: in the Chinese version of “SAT” (nationwide college entrance exam), English is a subject as important as Chinese and math-meaning if a student did not do well in English (mostly grammar related questions), that student may not be able to attend college. In many Asian countries, competition is much more intensive than in the US, largely because resources are so scare given the size of the competition. The story of Li Dan (the high school student) and her mother is also very common in China, especially in the economically less developed rural area. I hope this documentary can present a true picture of what a developing country looks like~ Again, really enjoy reading your comment!

    2. I also agree with everyones comments! From personal experience from taking spanish in high school and italian in college, I never really took it serious. Yes it would be nice to know another language but we mainly take another language because its required for school. For Chinese students it is also required but they actually need to acquire English especially with many American companies/americans moving to China to work. I can still live my day to day routine without knowing another language although it could benefit me in a lot of ways too. This was very eye opening and I wish we learned some of the things Chinese students did when we were young! I wonder how our world would be different if we did?

  2. This documentary was very eye-opening. I also didn’t realize how English is being taught in Chinese schools starting at a very young age. Most American students start learning a second language in middle school or high school. But for Chinese students, learning English has so much more importance behind it. It is such a valuable tool in today’s economy, especially how most of the jobs in China are due to American companies outsourcing. I also noticed that getting an education for Chinese students hopefully means providing financial stability for their whole family, not just themselves. I would imagine this would create a large amount of stress on the students to do well and make their parents proud.

    1. Those are good points that you made, and I agree. When you say that getting an education for Chinese students can hopefully lead to financial stability for their whole family and it probably putting a lot of pressure on them, this is probably very true! Especially because China has the 1 child policy. This is another aspect of the film that surprises me and makes me kind of sad because I know that I personally want to have at least two children so I feel grateful to be able to have this opportunity. Like, what if a family has twins? Are they forced to pay the extra extremely high amount of money?

      Another unrelated part of the film that surprised me was how similar Chongqing was to an American city, like how there were American brands all over. It looked like a really fun place that I’d like to visit!

  3. I agree with everyone’s thoughts so far. I also found that one of the most interesting aspects of this documentary was the children of China and how they are learning at such a young age about many aspects relating to the global market. I was surprised and intrigued at how advanced the learning was for these kids. China is really pushing towards innovation and expansion to expand their country in becoming a huge part of the global marketplace. I liked how the documentary talked about production in China and gave the facts behind why products can be cheap in America but in China they are considered expensive. This is because the workers in China have lower salaries. I believe that because of this, China is trying to expand into “more” and educating young children is a successful start since these children will be the future of China’s success. I enjoyed this documentary and found it very informative and I love how it related back with some topics from the speakers at the Cotton Summit.

    1. great comment! Why do you think Chinese workers have to earn less than the American workers? Thinking about the Missourian lady and the Chinese girl working in the production line–obviously the Missourian lady’s salary was much higher. How to explain such a phenomenon? Or is it a matter of fairness?

  4. I agree with many of the comments that have been made on the documentary, “The People’s Republic of Capitalism”. I thought the documentary was extremely interesting and I like how it shined light on a topic that is often talked about but not often shown. I really liked how it showed both sides of globalization. I found it very interesting to hear from the American worker on how globalization affected her when she lost her job as the company she worked for expanded to China. The documentary showed first hand why Americans are loosing their jobs. We saw how much cheaper the Chinese are working for and how companies save a lot more money by outsourcing from China. As Taylor mentioned, I also liked how this documentary talked about a lot of the same topics that were mentioned at The Cotton Summit. It was also nice to hear the views on the subject from Chinese workers because that is not something we often hear about in the United States. This documentary really opened my eyes to both sides of international trade. I had no idea how hard the Chinese try to learn English in school and work to gain certain skills they need to succeed and make a living. The documentary really showed how important globalization is for both countries in different ways.

    1. glad to hear you like the documentary! One point I want to make is although some jobs are lost in the US because of globalization, some other jobs are created. Even we are talking about made in USA, it shall be realized that service is closely connected with the modern manufacturing in the 21st century. Companies no longer simply provide products, but also various high value-added industry service (like IBM, which offers many solutions other than just the think-pad). There is one great advantage in the US education system in my view, i.e. emphasizing on innovation.

  5. The dilemma of globalization and international trade is very tough to deal with. On one hand it makes sense for U.S. companies to want to use people from overseas because it costs so much less money than paying American workers. But, this is unfair for both the Americans and the Chinese. It is unfortunate for American workers because they loose their jobs and are forced to find work elsewhere in a very tough economy. It is unfair for the Chinese workers because they are given huge amounts of work but are given very little pay. it seems that the only people who benefit are the major companies like Walmart. It is completely a money game. The companies in China that help with the manufacturing do not even make that much money, its the companies that they do the manufacturing for that make all of the money. There has to be a better way to help more Americans keep there jobs and raising the minimum wage pay in China. It feels like everyone looses except for the big companies

  6. I thought that “The People’s Republic of Capitalism” was a very interesting documentary. What I felt was most interesting was that the woman who lost her job still continued to go to Walmart when companies like Walmart made her unemployed in the first place. It is crazy how much she complained about losing her job to workers overseas but still said she would pick to shop for lower priced items instead of buying them full prices. Yes it is nice to buy things at a cheaper price but when you do not have a fixed income to spend on anything will it really make a difference if your pay three to four extra dollars for an item.

    1. This is one of my favorite parts of the documentary as well. The lady lost her job because of globalization but also benefited from globalization as a consumer. Remember, she is just one of the 300+ million US consumers who benefit from Trade. However, does each individual consumer fully realize such a benefit? Probably not. But the pains of job loss can be felt 100%.

  7. I agree with everyones comments so far. I found it intriguing that children in China learn about the global market at such a young age. In America, we are not taught about this topic till high school, or sometimes even college. International trade is a difficult topic. I am not sure if it is ever fair in the world we live in today. Not only is it unfair for the Chinese to be working for such low wages and many hours, but for the American’s as well. This takes away many jobs in America, which I believe affects the unemployment rate a great deal. Many people in America do not know the full affects of the global market and international trade. It may be discussed and argued about, however, if people do not see it first hand than they do not see the real affects that take place. On the other hand, we need to shine light on the consumers as well. For example, the lady in the documentary lost her job and continued to shop at Wal-Mart, which is one of the companies that took her job away from her. As a worker, globalization was a negative thing for her. As a consumer, she benefits from the low prices. I hope in the future we can find a better way so everyone benefits!

  8. This documentary made me really reflect on the other side of the apparel industry. In America, we are always looking for the best price or deal for clothing. If people in America knew the low wages paid to the workers who make the clothes they wear, maybe they would rethink which stores they would shop from. Although I believe we have a part to play in helping these workers, it is up to the countries itself to improve working conditions and improve labor laws. Also, it is hard for America to get so involved in helping these countries when American jobs are being outsourced. There are a lot more jobs provided in America as opposed to in the documentary where the children were learning the apparel industry, but I feel it is difficult to find a middle ground in satisfying everyone in this industry.

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