Chinese Doctors Changing Africa’s Healthcare: the challenges of working in impoverished and alien environments

“China / Africa Big Business (Episode 4: Doctors for Africa)” (ENDEVR, 2013)

A very good episode in the “China / Africa Big Business” series from the South African company Sabido Productions, this looks at two teams of doctors working in Zanzibar and a city in Angola. The first and third parts of the documentary follow the team working in a hospital in Stone Town on Zanzibar Island, how they deal with the challenges of working in impoverished conditions, communicating with patients and student doctors who speak a different language from theirs, and coping with homesickness, isolation and being separated from their families. The middle part of the documentary follows the team in Angola: there, the doctors also have to confront the reality of working in a country devastated by decades of civil war, chaos and destroyed infrastructures, as well as communicating with and helping patients and local staff in the hospital they have been assigned to. These doctors also have to adjust quickly to the difficult local conditions in which they have to work.

Interviews with individual Chinese doctors and specialists help viewers understand and appreciate the trials of being a doctor working in a busy and often overcrowded and under-resourced hospital in a poor country. Voice-over narration fills in the context behind the challenges the Chinese doctors have to face. At the same time, the interviewees emphasise what motivates them to keep going under difficult conditions: in particular, they talk about how the patients are grateful for their help. African interviewees stress the professionalism of the doctors they consult.

As with previous episodes of this series I have seen, the cinematography (which often emphasises close-ups of faces and picturesque scenes, and tracks the doctors going about their tasks) is excellent. The only technical problem with this episode is that often the narration is forced to compete with ambient background noises for listeners’ attention, and parts of the documentary have to be replayed to pick up information that is missed as a result. Apart from this issue, I’d recommend this episode to viewers interested in learning how China uses its recently acquired wealth and technical expertise to assist other nations, especially poor nations, in improving people’s lives.

The Chinese Companies Behind Water Supply in Africa: how Chinese companies transform lives and communities in Angola and Zanzibar

“China / Africa Big Business (Episode 6: Precious Water)” (ENDEVR, 2013)

This South African documentary follows two Chinese corporations on opposite sides of southern Africa in their efforts to supply impoverished rural and urban communities with running water. The first half of the documentary features China Railway Jianchang Engineering Limited (GRJE) building water pipelines and water and sanitation infrastructures to bring running water to communities on Zanzibar Island in Tanzania. The second half of the documentary focuses on the work of Guangxi Hydroelectric Commission Bureau (GHCB) and in particular the work of one of the company’s managers in bringing water infrastructure and a power station to Luanda and Lobito respectively, two major cities in Angola. (Luanda is also the capital of Angola.) In both halves of the documentary, the Chinese companies not only work on constructing pipelines to bring water into communities and take stormwater and sewage out, and provide work and training for local people, but also become involved in social projects the communities need. The GHCB manager interviewed in the documentary has also invested time, money and effort in establishing a farm to provide food and work for people in the Lobito area. GRJE is also helping to build a hotel on Zanzibar and its engineers have consciously incorporated traditional Zanzibari designs and craftwork in the hotel’s construction.

Interviews with Chinese managers and local people in Zanzibar, Luanda and Lobito focus not only on the transformative effect the water infrastructure projects are having on the lives of the people but also on the respect the Chinese and their African partners have for each other. The Chinese respect the hard work and diligence of the African people and the Africans find the Chinese to be reliable and helpful in going beyond the original aims and scope of the water supply and sanitation projects. Voice-over narration provides historical and economic context for the projects; in particular, viewers are made aware of the destructive effects of the civil war that lasted over 25 years in Angola on people’s lives and the conditions they live in. Unfortunately the voice-over narration has to fight the music soundtrack to be heard clearly.

The cinematography is very good with many, sometimes confronting close-ups and panoramic, even postcard-picture views of Zanzibar, Luanda and Lobito. African children figure very prominently in the film, giving it a bright and even sometimes bubbly and optimistic feel.

How Chinese Money is Changing Housing in Africa: a survey of how Chinese companies are transforming African people’s lives and societies through housing projects

“China / Africa Big Business (Episode 2: Building Homes)” (ENDEVR, 2013)

Part of a South African-made series of six episodes on Chinese business investment in Africa, this very interesting and visually appealing documentary looks at how two major Chinese construction companies have gone about building major housing projects in Angola and Tanzania, and furthermore how these two companies have become further involved in improving the lives of the people who have moved into the houses and of the workers employed in building the houses. The documentary uses both voice-over narration and interviews with managers and employees of the construction companies, and the people living in the housing projects to illustrate what the construction companies have done for them and the transformations that have followed.

The documentary is split into three parts for easy viewing. The first part follows the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) in its construction of mass housing across eight provinces of Tanzania for the Tanzanian Peoples’ Defence Force. A military veteran and his family are given a new house and they marvel at the amenities and the space that they did not have in their previous shabby dwelling. The second part of the documentary surveys a new satellite city, Kilamba City, built on the outskirts of Luanda, the capital of Angola, built by CITIC according to Chinese construction codes and standards. Streets follow north-south and east-west orientations, and buildings are oriented in ways so that harsh sun can be minimised where possible and good ventilation is maximised. CITIC provides an additional service – an after-sale service if you like – in repairing utilities in individual dwellings even where the fault may have been the residents’ fault.

The third part of the documentary covers CITIC’s involvement in helping to improve agriculture, in particular food production and agricultural research, in Angola. This part of the documentary also follows CITIC’s construction of a vocational school to train young people in civil construction, mechanics and electrical work. The episode concludes with CITIC’s sponsoring of a table tennis club for children which extends to bringing out coaches from China to teach the children how to play.

Unfortunately the background music is very loud and drowns out parts of the commentary so much information can be lost and viewers need to repeat the documentary a few times to catch interesting snippets. Apart from this technical fault, filming is very well done and includes panoramic shots of the housing projects and Kilamba City itself to illustrate the huge scale of this particular project and the urban landscaping that accompanies it. A brief bit of historical context is included: after independence in 1975, Angola experienced a long period of civil war and foreign interference which ended in 2002. Much reconstruction needs to be done, employment must be found for people, services need to be provided and it seems that Chinese firms such as SCG and CITIC are not only filling the gaps of assisting in reconstruction, building new infrastructure and providing jobs and vocational training for people, but also addressing people’s needs for schools and providing children with recreation and sport, thus also extending their help and influence into local cultures. Emphasis is on how China and African nations have supported one another in the past and how the Chinese remember and honour the support African peoples have given them – by providing practical help.

The documentary portrays a very positive picture of how Chinese companies are helping Africans lift themselves out of poverty by giving them work and training as well as the housing and amenities they desperately need. Western nations and companies would do well to observe what the Chinese are doing and emulate the best aspects of the Chinese example. Of course one notes that the documentary says very little about what SCG and CITIC might or might not be doing that could be negative, and which the Angolans and Tanzanians could be critical of – for one thing, we do not know who is financing the housing projects or how they or any loans taken out on them will have to be paid for – and one could argue that the film fails to look at the long-term issues likely to arise from the mass housing projects. By focusing on the present, the film could be attacked as pro-Chinese propaganda. One can argue though that private Western developers would not do any better – and would do far worse – in failing to consider even short-term consequences of any construction projects they might undertake in impoverished nations: one only has to see what such companies do in their own nations, and the problems relating to urban design and infrastructures, and failure to connect with local communities that private housing projects often engender.

The American Empire in Asia in the 1800s: an enthralling if disturbing story of US imperialism in east Asia and the western Pacific

Carlton Meyer, “The American Empire in Asia in the 1800s” (Tales of the American Empire, 9 July 2021)

This short history documentary is an excellent entry in Carlton Meyer’s Tales of the American Empire series and a great introduction to the history of American foreign policy during the 19th century for the general public. Meyer quickly dispels the notion that American imperialism began with US victory over the Spanish in the Spanish-American War in 1898 that led to US colonisation of Cuba and the Philippines, as is accepted by most US historians. Indeed the first US President George Washington is known to have referred to the new United States in the early 1780s as a “nascent empire” and even as early as 1778, David Ramsay, South Carolina’s delegate to the Continental Congress, wrote that the North American continent would be the foundation of an empire that would make the Roman empire and the Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great “sink into insignificance“. The early US empire got under way in the 1830s when US warships, on the pretext of protecting US merchant and whaling ships, attacked islands in eastern and southeast Asia whose inhabitants (Malays, Dayaks) had threatened such ships and killed some of their sailors. US warships became regular visitors to eastern Asia and China in particular, working with the British to protect British interests and later American opium interests in southern China. The visits of US warships under Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan in the 1850s, forcing the Japanese to westernise later in the 1870s, should be seen in the context of growing US imperial influence in the eastern Asian region.

Capitalising on local political disputes in the Samoan islands, the US Navy established a naval station in those islands, an action that brought the US into conflict with the German navy there. Disputes with the Germans and local Samoan political factions eventually led to the islands being parcelled among Germany and the US: those islands that came under American rule remain so to this day as American Samoa, the German part later passing through New Zealand rule and becoming independent Western Samoa in 1962, renamed Samoa in 1997.

These details plus others Meyer mentions show that the US acquired its various colonies not by accident or because of other nations’ predatory actions but deliberately to enable US elites to profit from seizing and exploiting other people’s lands and resources. This empire of direct US colonies may no longer exist in the form created in the late 19th / early 20th centuries but it continues in the global outreach and ambitions of the US Navy, as succinctly demonstrated in the US Navy advertisement that ends the short documentary.

Fascinating archival maps, photographs and film shorts illustrate the documentary and the riveting if disturbing tale it tells.

How is US pop culture used against Venezuela? – a punchy sketch of US propaganda in action

Ricardo Vaz, Joshua Wilson, Mayra Soto, “How is US pop culture used against Venezuela?” (Tatuy TV / Venezuelanalysis, 21 June 2021)

At less than five minutes in length, this may be a very tiny documentary but it is punchy all the same. This video is a sketch of how Venezuela is demonised in American popular culture products such as videogames, movies and television shows, and showcases offensive examples like Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” series, Fox’s “Legends” and even NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” comedy series. In these products, the most egregious (and tired) stereotypes are planted over and over: Chavez or Maduro as a dictator, or Venezuela as a repressive place where people are thrown into jail without trail for being journalists or for having fun at the wrong time.

A major part of the film is taken up with action videogames like “Call to Duty: Ghosts” in which Venezuela is portrayed as having acquired nuclear weapons or malevolently infiltrating other South American nations to form an evil empire to menace the Free World. Players of these games assume the roles of mercenaries or covert agents to seek out and kill the Venezuelan President or some thinly disguised version of the President.

The film-makers observe that Hollywood colludes with the US government in making these films and videos though they spend little time on observing the effects of this visual propaganda and its repetition on the Western general public. One can assume though that this propaganda, repeated often enough, and produced in huge quantities, is intended to prime Western audiences to accept a US-led invasion of Venezuela in the near future and to urge young American people in particular to join the US military. A more detailed documentary is needed though to analyse the nature of Hollywood’s collusion with the US government and its various agencies including the CIA and the Department of Defense, and how the flood of pop culture propaganda shapes popular attitudes towards Venezuela and US policies toward Venezuela.

The film concludes on a surprisingly bright note by demonstrating how popular Chavez and his Venezuelan brand of socialism have been among Venezuelan people themselves and among the poor in other countries. One can’t help but see how vibrant and lively Venezuelan culture has become since 1999 and how dull, unimaginative and banal US pop culture propaganda products are in comparison.

What the Media Won’t Tell You About Venezuela: mini-documentary won’t tell you much more either

What the Media Won’t Tell You About Venezuela” (ReallyGraceful, 3 June 2017)

Viewers of this very short mini-documentary on Venezuelan politics won’t learn very much about why Venezuela’s current socialist government under President Nicolas Maduro continues to survive despite the country’s poverty and food shortages – nor will they learn anything about what’s actually fuelling the food shortages there. The thrust of ReallyGraceful’s video is to show that the people of Venezuela – and by implication, people in other middle and lower income nations around the world – are caught between two camps of evil, or what ReallyGraceful herself perceives as evil, and that the Western mainstream news media will push their audiences to choose one of these camps (usually the US and its allies) as the good guys. In the film, former President Hugo Chavez and the socialist ideology and structures he implemented in Venezuela are viewed by ReallyGraceful as part of Venezuela’s ongoing problems; at the same time ReallyGraceful correctly identifies Venezuela being under siege by the US and forces allied with it (among them, Israel and the global finance industry including the Bank of International Settlements) as part and parcel of the problem as well.

While ReallyGraceful does well in fingering the dominance of the oil industry in Venezuela’s economy over past decades as the underlying foundation of Venezuela’s recent past and current problems, she fails to note that this dominance is the result of policies made by past politically conservative governments in the country working together with US political and corporate interests to the detriment of Venezuelan people. Such policies privileged foreign oil interests (to the extent that other industries in the country suffered from lack of support and declined) and ignored the healthcare, educational and other social needs of the Venezuelan people. When Chavez became President in 1999, he sought to rectify the dire economic straits of the majority of Venezuelan people by using oil revenues to fund social services and other programs. To his credit also, Chavez tried to diversify Venezuelan industry and support programs aimed at reviving agriculture though with mixed success.

ReallyGraceful notes that food shortages have been severe in Venezuela but fails to realise that, again, the favouring of the oil industry and US oil interests by conservative governments before Chavez led to the decline of agriculture in Venezuela to the point where the country became overly dependent on imports of food, even food staples. For some reason, or perhaps because his time as President was cut short, Chavez never tried to wrest control of food imports away from companies owned by wealthy families and individuals opposed to his government and socialist ideology, and current President Maduro and his government are perhaps too preoccupied in dealing with more urgent issues to be able to address this issue of food imports. The result is that food importers can use classic-economics demand and supply phenomena as blackmail over the general public and create social and economic chaos for the Maduro government.

ReallyGraceful’s anti-socialist stance blinds her to the possibility of Venezuelans as individuals and in groups, communities and non-profit organisations confronting the food shortage issue by growing their own food and organising their own food markets to sell, barter or otherwise distribute food to those who need it most.

I note though that ReallyGraceful ends her film by observing that Venezuela is under pressure from the US and the global finance industry to yield its natural resources to foreign ownership and control. As she always does, she invites viewers to comment on her mini-documentaries, which is her way of admitting that she is open to criticism and counter-opinions.

The Unknown Cultural Revolution: showing how social conditions and cultural values can be changed to transform people’s lives and redirect society

Dongping Han, “The Unknown Cultural Revolution” (Guns and Butter, 13 January 2010)

Dongping Han is a history professor at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina and the author of “The Unknown Cultural Revolution: Life and Change in a Chinese Village” which challenges the Western narrative of the Cultural Revolution in China as a destructive period of economic regression and of violence and persecution of Chinese intellectual elites. This Guns and Butter recording on SoundCloud is an edited version of Han’s presentation made at the University of California in 2009 in which he talks about his childhood during the Cultural Revolution in a rural part of Shandong province. His premise is that an individual’s psychology is shaped in large part by the social conditions in which that individual grows up and by the values that are emphasised in those conditions. The topics he covers in this presentation include the development of the education system during that period and how it transformed peasant communities in Shandong province; the general transformation of Chinese society, culture and values under Communist rule; the tensions and riots between Uyghur and Han Chinese communities in Xinjiang; and the famine during the Great Leap Forward in China in the 1950s.

It’s quite a rambling talk and I must confess I did get lost along the way during the first half hour of the talk as Han ranges across a variety of topics relating to Chinese social development during the Cultural Revolution and the far-reaching results it had on the country’s economic, political and social directions in the half-century that followed. The very first topic on the importance and value of work, especially work done voluntarily by individuals as part of a team, is very interesting and highlights the difference between Western societies which basically view individuals as selfish and incapable of improvement (a view encouraged by traditional Christianity which regards humans as being born in sin) and who must be forced to work or threatened with punishment, and societies such as Communist Chinese society which regard humans as capable of change and self-sacrifice. I did try to follow and concentrate as much as I could on the part of his presentation where he discusses Xinjiang and relations between the Han Chinese and the Uyghurs. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Han Chinese and Uyghurs were equals and treated one another fraternally; under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership in the 1980s – 90s, when state enterprises were privatised, relations between the Han Chinese and Uyghurs deteriorated and ethnic tensions arose as Han Chinese employers of firms based in Xinjiang favoured people from their own regions or ethnic groups over local people in Xinjiang. Again, this part of Han’s presentation implies that changing social conditions during the second half of the 20th century as a result of the changes in political leadership in China can have grave consequences for the strength of the social fabric in communities of great ethnic and religious diversity.

The talk becomes more structured once people are invited to ask questions and one person wants to know what kinds of new values were created in villages and rural communities during the Cultural Revolution and how this creation took place. Han emphasises through anecdotes how people were taught and encouraged to care for others and to look out for them, especially if they were all part of work teams. Looking out for others is often motivation enough for people to undertake work of their own volition without needing personal material rewards. Urban-based intellectuals were encouraged to work with rural-based peasants and farmers.

Han discusses why and how Mao Zedong was so popular among ordinary people, especially rural people: the policies he instigated were aimed at improving their lives, and many of these policies had either immediate results or powerful long-term results. One consequence is that very few people criticised Mao: criticism was discouraged because, as Han sees it, the people discouraged such criticism, not the government. Some of Mao’s policies often struck his followers as odd or even dangerous: on attaining power in October 1949, Mao insisted on continuing to employ public servants who had served under the Nationalist government – the reason being that if he were to get rid of them, these people would turn their energies against the Communists (and be co-opted by hostile anti-Communist forces within and outside China).

Han concludes his talk by comparing and contrasting contemporary Chinese society with US society, especially the contrasts he found when he first started studying and working in the US. He points out that while some Chinese citizens have become billionaires, their wealth has not come at the cost of their fellow citizens’ welfare whereas in Western societies many individuals have become extremely (and insanely) wealthy as a result of wealth transfers created by (among other things) privatisation of public institutions and services. The Chinese government has retained state ownership of critical industries and prioritised employment over inflation or monetary policies to steer the economy.

The presentation is edited in a way that makes Han’s audience appear uncritically accepting of everything or nearly everything he says. People could have challenged him on how China under Mao dealt with those who opposed Communism or criticised Mao’s policies and how such dealings were or can be justified on the basis of the new values being sown among the working class in cities and rural areas alike. Listeners wanting more can try finding the whole presentation online or read Han’s aforementioned book.

The Empire enters the Cocaine Trade: an introduction to US involvement in a sordid trade

Carlton Meyer, “The Empire enters the Cocaine Trade” (Tales of the American Empire, 25 June 2021)

For a nation committed to neo-capitalist ideology – under which any and all activities with the potential to generate considerable profits (at minimal cost to those undertaking them) are more than just desirable, they are legitimate no matter how unethical they are or how much suffering to others they might cause – it should come as no surprise to fans of Tales of the American Empire series that the US military and intelligence agencies are involved in trafficking in illegal drugs such as opioid narcotics and cocaine, and profiting from that trafficking. This episode is the first in an ongoing investigation of the involvement of the US government and its agencies in the illegal drug trade among other topics that the series returns to from time to time. It also considers the role that US mainstream news media has played and continues to play in either ignoring, condoning or denying US government complicity in the global trade (usually in collusion with other criminal organisations) to the extent that vast numbers of Americans and others around the world who consider the US to be an important ally and friend are completely unaware that the US even engages in illicit drug trafficking, let alone know how deeply entwined in criminal activity the US government is.

The episode consists mainly of interviews going back nearly 50 years in which US government officials admit their government’s participation in drug trafficking and even protection of drug dealers, supposedly in the name of fighting Communism. In many cases, as detailed by individual US Drug Enforcement Administration agents, former Nazi war criminals were helped and given safe haven in South America by CIA agents among others through profitable drug trafficking rings. Many rogue CIA agents made large amounts of money doing so. Other interviewees describe in considerable detail what their roles were in sending planes packed with illegal drugs from South America to the US, all of which could have been intercepted by border patrols, and their cargo seized and impounded. One interviewee considers the damage that such trafficking does to US democracy, especially when such activities are part and parcel of US collusion with fascist forces in other countries (particularly countries in Latin America) to overthrow democratic governments, crush democratic opposition and deny those countries’ citizens their freedoms and rights.

There’s not much actually said about when and how the US became involved in the global cocaine trade – no actual year or incident that can be said to signify the start of an unlovely addiction on the part of the US government and its agencies to the illegal drug trade -but then the whole sordid history of how the US became involved in such trade, and how its politics became corrupted due to the massive profits that were made and how much of those profits went into politicians’ pockets or election campaigns, would take many, many episodes to cover. The episode under review aims mainly to introduce audiences to an aspect of US geopolitics that they have never been informed of. I’m sure sequels to this episode will be very informative and more specific on details of how far and how deeply US complicity in the illegal drug trade goes.

Post Mortem: Four Corners Australia Post / Christine Holgate autopsy turns up cool on privatisation issue

“Post Mortem” (Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 28 June 2021)

Posited as an investigation into the recent history and culture of Australia Post, and the actions that took place that led to the departure of Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate, this Four Corners report ends up as simply a series of claims and counter-claims from which viewers will learn little other than that Australia Post has long been in the Liberal / National coalition government’s target sights for privatisation and will continue to be such a target. The bulk of the report is in the form of excerpts from several interviews made by reporter Michael Brissenden with key protagonist Holgate herself and others including the current Federal Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher.

The report initially begins with the supposed scandal surrounding Holgate’s gifts of Cartier watches totalling $12,000 to senior Australia Post executives, the uproar that resulted (which both the ALP and the Coalition government exploited for their own ends) and Holgate’s forced departure; it then backtracks into following the recent history of Australia Post and its organisation and culture from the time Ahmed Fahour became Australia Post CEO in 2010 and began restructuring its business. Along the way from the time Fahour joined Australia Post, left and was replaced by Holgate, to Holgate herself having to leave, viewers get a little insight into Fahour and Holgate’s respective leadership styles and their vision for Australia Post, and how Holgate’s plans for the organisation came up against the Federal Government’s ultimate goal for the postal service.

One might have expected that Four Corners, being part of a government-run organisation whose budget has steadily been run down by successive Coalition governments, might have come out swinging against the Federal government’s privatisation agenda or the Boston Consulting Group’s recommendations that Australia Post be subjected to break-up and privatisation moves but the report does no such thing. Brissenden does not canvass (or appear to) any opinions among Licensed Postal Offices (private businesses that operate postal services under contract to Australia Post; they may operate purely as post offices or combine the functions with another line of business, such as running a newsagency or general store) or Australia Post employees, apart from a former AP executive, on the issue of privatisation or on what they think of Holgate. (My understanding is that the LPOs support her.) Instead the report ends up merely parroting a polemical series of arguments, painting Australia Post as an organisation with a chaotic management culture, that go nowhere. The conclusion to the report, if any can be said to exist, is deliberately left open-ended.

The curious thing is that the one group that has come out in favour of keeping Australia Post as a government-run institution, the Australian Citizens’ Party, was portrayed in the Four Corners report as a “fringe” party (read: a bunch of crackpot conspiracy theorists) supportive of the views of Lyndon LaRouche, described in the report as “anti-Semitic, a racist and a conspiracy theorist” and nothing more. That in itself might tell us more about the Four Corners program and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation than it does about the Australian Citizens’ Party: that despite the very real danger of privatisation facing the ABC itself, the organisation dares not support other government institutions also facing privatisation and the loss of employment – not to mention the devastation rural communities would face without Australia Post, the ABC and other government agencies – it would lead to.

Whatever happened to so-called investigative journalism and advocating for Aussie battlers at the ABC? If one were to judge from the manner of this Four Corners report, real investigative journalism on behalf of defending the powerless no longer exists there.

What the Media Won’t Tell You About China: the historical context behind the downfall and rise of modern China

“What the Media Won’t Tell You About China” (ReallyGraceful, 20 June 2018)

This short film is less a historical documentary about China and how it came to be the nation is it now and more a demonstration of the historical context behind contemporary China and its politics. The aim is to show why China takes the actions it does and how the intent of these actions is deliberately twisted by Western mainstream media to suggest that China is an aggressor with sinister imperial designs. ReallyGraceful shows how Confucianism as a political and social philosophy has influenced and shaped the relationship between the government and the people, individually and collectively, and helped give China long-lasting stability that lasted through several dynastic cycles and was ended by European, particularly British, imperial economic ambitions.

The film focuses on a few significant events that destabilised China or influenced its political direction: the Opium Wars and the corruption and instability that mass opium addiction brought to China; the Boxer Rebellion, which discredited the Qing dynasty; Mao Zedong’s Long March; and the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists that made the country vulnerable to Japanese invasion. Along the way, RG notes the association that Mao Zedong had with Yale University in the US (a short one, by the way) and spends some time detailing the links between Yale University and one George Herbert Walker Bush, a former US President and CIA Director, through the notorious Skull & Bones Society: this association suggests that the Chinese Communists had quite intimate and complicate contacts with the CIA and the Skull & Bones Society that go right back to the 1920s. This association with its networks was rent asunder by the Tiananmen Square event which, as ReallyGraceful sets out meticulously, turns out to be nothing like its portrayal in Western mainstream media: instead the “massacre” was actually an attempt by the CIA, using people embedded among the protesting students, to take control of the protest, turn it into a violent revolution and force (through violence) the overthrow of the Communist government and with it the dissolution of the Communist Party of China.

After the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, China forged ahead with its economic development to the extent that the nation is now the largest economy in the world and owns over a trillion US dollars’ worth of US debt. China has become a major global investor in several countries in Africa and elsewhere. The country now wields such major economic influence through trade and trading networks that it is now in a position to challenge US global financial hegemony by enticing its trade partners – and Middle Eastern suppliers of oil – to trade in petro-yuan rather than in petro-dollars. This threatens the privileged status of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, not least because a move away from using the US dollar would result in plummeting demand for the dollar, leading to the dollar’s deflation and the dire consequences for US trade and the economy.

RG passes no judgement on China’s human rights situation though her description of what happened during the Tiananmen Square events suggests she is less likely than most to view China as a heavily authoritarian and oppressive state that brutalises its peoples. As this short film is an opinion piece, RG gives no sources for her information. Mao Zedong’s link to Yale University and the Skull and Bones Society will come as a surprise to many – it certainly did to me – but Google searches confirm that Mao indeed received help in his political and literary career from Yale University through its Yale-in-China Group; he might never have risen as high as he did without financial help and other support from that group, and the history of China would have taken a very different direction!

RG’s portrayal of the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989 merits mention and praise in the way her commentary slides right into a more objective and critical view of those events without any bias. She puts up information and invites viewers to consider this information for themselves and to find out more and share their discoveries with others. While the film omits to mention significant events of the 20th century – the Japanese invasion of China surely merits one mention, as does the way in which China became the new workshop to the world at the expense of working and middle class jobs in Western countries whose leaders saw nothing wrong in companies offshoring jobs to China – it does well enough as an introduction to modern China and how it has become the nation it is.