Koppel on Discovery: The People’s Republic of Capitalism

When Ted Koppel and Tom Bettag set out to explore China’s economy, they were met with an unexpected reception. “We found this totally shocking — that we had almost no government interference whatsoever,” says Bettag, the executive producer for the four-part program Koppel on Discovery: The People’s Republic of Capitalism. The only trouble was with an occasional police officer, Bettag says, who would stop them and ask them if they had permission — which they did. Koppel, Bettag and team spent eight months in Chongqing, China, and their freedom to film can largely be attributed to the city’s eagerness to be seen. “They are so eager to be known around the world — that ‘We are a major city. This is a city of 12 million people and nobody’s ever heard of us,’” says Bettag.

The series, which was made for the Discovery Channel, examines the effects of China’s growth on its people, politics, economy and environment. One of the most interesting revelations in the series concerns China’s codependent relationship with the United States. “They are our factory, and we are their consumers,” says Bettag.

But in all seriousness, the fact that the U.S. isn’t doing so well in the not-going-broke department directly affects our neighbors to the west. “They hold a trillion dollars of American debt; when we run up a deficit we’re getting that money largely from China and Japan,” he says. “They would give anything in the world to convert those to euros, but they cannot switch that money into euros, because that would destroy the U.S. economy and they need a healthy U.S. economy for us to be able to buy their products at Wal-Mart.”

Koppel on Discovery: The People’s Republic of Capitalism premieres on the Discovery Channel on Wednesday, July 9, but you can get a sneak peek when portions of the series are screened today followed by a Q&A session with the producers. 7 p.m. Angelika Film Center, 510 Texas. For reservations and information, call 713-439-0265 or visit www.asiasociety.org. Free.
Thu., June 26, 7 p.m., 2008

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Dusti Rhodes
Contact: Dusti Rhodes