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China: In Transition

Everything is progressing, changing nearly overnight. Building continues apace following the historic 2008 Beijing Olympics. Massive and dramatic changes are underway everywhere, in every corner of China –from the gilded skyline coast to the remote far west.

What is China becoming? How exactly is it advancing? How are religion and spirituality now viewed in a country with a communist government and a capitalist economy? President Hu has held a number of summits over the past few years with Western leaders. They have been meetings of significant proportion, ripe with historic opportunity.

There is potentially a win-win plan that appears to be emerging, all sides willing. Arguably, nothing is more critical to the project of the 21st century than Western-Sino relations. China is now woven into the global, interdependent economy. How can formerly tense relations be so improved? Is it possible to build a new dynamic that would give both sides a boost, improve economic conditions, allow more freedoms, stabilize political relations and effect the future of the world for good? Will China step up to the task, away from the Orientalist trappings of the past and its ensnarled bureaucracies and outdated ideology?

China boasts one of the longest single unified civilizations in the world. Its 5000 year history is characterized by dramatic shifts in power between rival factions, periods of peace and prosperity when foreign ideas were assimilated and absorbed, the disintegration of empire through corruption and political subterfuge, and the cyclical rise of ambitious leaders to found each new empire. But for the last three hundred years China has more or less been asleep. The error and mistake of Mao’s disaster are all too evident today. But the sleeping dragon empire is now reemerging in a vibrant dynasty. China is attempting changes on a scale never before achieved and at break-neck speed. A new ‘harmonious’ society is the objective and today nearly everything is in a constant state called: transition.

Twenty-five years after Deng Xiaoping’s reform and opening policy allowed the West back into China, the country remains as mysterious and undiscovered as it was in the 19th century when gunboat diplomacy forced the last tottering dynasty to open up the country to trade and exploration. China’s vast population has grown from 400 million to over 1.3 billion in less than a century. This has driven a boom in consumerism most evident in the cities where advertising abounds and an entrepreneurial and materialistic China is literally, bubbling up.

There are four gigantic transformations happening in China, simultaneously. No country has ever in all of human history been involved in such dramatic change. But in this case, given China’s size, power and integration into the global economy, the risks and rewards involve the entire planet.

The four transformations or transitions are:

  • Rural to Urban
  • State Owned to Free Enterprise
  • Communist to Consumerist
  • Anti-religious to Spiritual

The West would be well prepared to comprehend and ponder each of these concurrent transformations in attempting to understand modern China.

The emerging China, surely involves combating rampant corruption, enforcement of intellectual property laws, assistance by way of expertise on reforms, an open admission that Maoism is both wrong and dead (a museum to this effect, is in the making), and realization that consumers increasingly come first in China’s emerging “harmonious society.”

This is not to suggest that there are no problems in or with China or that it magically can assume an instant superpower status; becomes our keen rival or eventual enemy. It is simply time to recognize the facts and seize the day. There are many hard questions we will ask, some of which include:

  • The economic growth question. Is China’s boom of the past quarter century extendable into the distant future? Or does China’s large and growing dependence on global markets mean that external markets could damage its economy by disrupting resource flows, obstructing market access, or slowing the growth of global demand for Chinese products. Will international conflict within East Asia or over offshore oil deposits or even conflict in the Middle East undercut China’s economic prospects? How can we together mitigate such risks to growth?

  • The reform question. Long neglected institutional deficiencies constrict seemingly promising growth prospects, as history has repeatedly proven. Is China’s reform, while broad and deep, uneven? Vital institutions affecting important clusters of activity in banking, land allocation, dispute resolution, and business regulation, exchange of property, corporate governance, capital markets, public finance, investment decisions and administrative structures surrounding these segments of China’s economy have witnessed only limited reform. How can China with our help make progress on reform over the coming decade? Are religious freedom and the growth of spirituality inevitable in modern China? How will they deal with it now that it is out of the box and possibly out of control, as well?

  • The intellectual property question. Large multinational companies and especially their CEOs are anxious to see results on the contentious issues of IP protection in China. I have personally been sold copies of bootleg movies for US 75 cents (repeatedly); purchased pharmaceuticals in a large drug store with the Pfizer label and logo that are not Pfizer products; bought clothing such as Vuitton and Ralph Lauren Polo that are imitations; and discussed with a major beverage company how its designs were ripped-off in China in just days. What should we tell CEOs about trademark and IP infringement in China? Is it worth doing business there?

  • The corruption question. Widespread corruption, now often linked to transactions involving land in China and a vibrant black market, have tilted market outcomes toward select groups within the Chinese population. In recent Transparency and Opacity Indexes for all countries, China has been ranked poorly. What can be done to actively combat corruption and promote the rule of law?

  • The finance question. The dominance of China’s state-owned banks have increased since the 1990s, raising renewed questions and global concerns that non-performing loans are worsening. The continuing unwillingness of the big state-owned banks to make loans to entrepreneurs limits the growth of private business and exacerbates China’s already serious problem of unemployment. How is China planning to avoid the kind of economic lethargy that affected Japan’s formerly dynamic economy for about a decade?

  • The information question. Most in the world agree that as the euphemism suggests,’ information is power”. While in China articulate, young, professionals repeatedly approached us asking if they could view BBC.com or CNN or surf the Internet in our hotel. They relayed that Chinese authorities block many websites, including news sources. Why? What does China fear from the free flow of information, if its intention is to build knowledge based economy and populace?

  • The America question. How has China’s perception and understanding of America’s role in the world and global economy shifted over the past few years? Is it China’s view that the American century has ended and the Chinese century has begun? What is the role and responsibility of a superpower? Is China America’s friend or rival? Why is China building up militarily?

  • The Communism question. Marxism-Leninism has been defunct as a philosophy for many decades in intellectual circles and since the collapse of the Soviet Union its empire no longer holds sway as an ideological system. What has China learned from the Soviet example and the void it has left as a result? China’s Communist Party is authoritarian and repressive to human, and especially religious rights. China is also increasingly a consumerist society. Therein lays the contradiction. Is China likely to be a communist country in 10, 20, 50 years? How and employing which means?

    Confucius (551 – 479 BC) is still the foremost Chinese thinker and teacher. He is once again coming back into favor. A real interest in religion, Buddhist, Taoist, Neo-Confucian, Muslim and especially, Christian is sweeping through China like a tornado. Confucius taught a philosophy of ren (benevolence) and yi (righteousness). Perhaps, enjoined in meaningful dialogue, China can rediscover these. The world depends on it. Spiritual pluralism may be the critical key that unlocks China’s future and assures its smooth transition to the future.

The Executive Committee of the China: In Transition project includes:

  • Dr. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, Partner, Donegality Productions LLC, Executive Producer
  • Kang Phee Seng, Professor of Religion, Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Dr. Christopher Hancock, Director Christianity and China Institute, Kings College, London University
  • Dr. Carol Hamrin, CEO, Chinawise
  • Dr. John Seel, Partner, Donegality Productions LLC, Associate Producer
  • Dr. Michael Stephens, Thomas Nelson, Distribution Liaison
  • Randall Wallace, CEO, Wheelhouse Productions, LLC
  • Fenggang Yang, Director, Center on Religion and Chinese Society, Purdue University
  • Liu Peng, Professor, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Donegality Productions LLC is a media company that develops books, films, and other cultural projects that promote human flourishing and the common good. Donegality Productions will oversee the project in partnership with Wheelhouse Productions and distribute the film and curriculum through Thomas Nelson, the leading Christian publisher.

The director, screenwriter and producer of the documentary is Randall Wallace, President of Wheelhouse Productions and producer and author of the award-winning feature film, Braveheart and many other hits, including PBS documentaries and a series for The History Channel.

The budget for the film is $2.5 million, which incorporates both a traditional and viral marketing strategy with a global audience in mind.

Outline

The following is a concept outline of the documentary. There may be slight changes in settings and locations as the script is developed and completed. But these are the four themes that are explored and illustrated in the film. Each theme will be examined by a dramatic narrative story designed to reach both an elite/intelligent and a younger generation of emerging viewers curious about China.

  1. Rural to Urban
  2. Summary: People on the Move

    This story is filmed in China’s urban coastal cities and discusses the loss of innocence. It describes how the experience of living in modern China has reinforced new ways of thinking, living and working. We will follow a young man from a primitive state of subsistence farming in the distant countryside into the urban jungle, without his wife, children or traditions. We will demonstrate the effect and record the scale of massive demographic change over the last decade for some 300 million such persons.

    • Experience of Modern China
      • Industry
      • Loss of Community
      • Loss of Family
      • Loss of Traditions
    • Thinking in Modern China
      • Individual
      • Subjective
      • Power
      • Consumer
  3. State Owned to Free Enterprise
  4. Summary: Central Planning gives rise to corporations

    This story filmed in a Wal-Mart in Middle America and at various Chinese factories. It discusses how China is connected to the global economy. It traces a number of commonplace products back to their origin in China and documents the new industrial life that has come to define the Chinese economy. We will meet workers, CEOs and trace the route from factory to ship to store. The end of central state enterprise has brought a flood of new companies.

    • Inside Wal-Mart
    • Outside China’s teeming factories

  5. Communist to Consumerist
  6. Summary: The power of the Communist Party is shifting to the all-powerful consumer

    This story filmed on Shanghai’s equivalent of Rodeo Drive discusses how the pursuit of the self and material gratification has given rise to the modern Chinese consumer culture. Old ideas about the soul, religion and character have been gradually replaced by the appearance of considerable wealth. It concludes with observations about the new celebration of self and ends in the collapse of self; but not before it becomes a surrogate divinity and the object of idol worship. We talk to Chinese celebrities, billionaires and members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to gage their opinions.

    • Ideology to Personal Values
    • Communist Community to Individual Personalities
    • The New Nature of Self as Consumer
    • Shame and Control to Autonomy and Experience

  7. Anti-religious to Spiritual
  8. Summary: From Official State Atheism to Spiritual Choice

    This story filmed in the five different faith communities in present day China discusses the way in which the object of spirituality has been changed from being something closed and persecuted to something open and respected, even valued for its contribution to a ‘harmonious’ society. Such views and forms of worship will be viewed from the temples, shrines and house churches where real believers live and pray. We will see first hand how spirituality is transforming China in every faith community.

    • Spirituality from Below
    • Spirituality from Above
    • Protestant, Catholic, Islamic, Buddhist, and Daoist lived experience

Outreach

The aim of this project is to reach emerging influentials both in the United States and abroad. Prior to the release of the film and companion book, we will be host town hall meetings in leading places across the United States on the thesis.

Development DVD Budget

Production Personnel
Executive Producer 175,000
Producers 250,000
Direction 175,000
Cast 50,000
Personnel Subtotal 650,000
Pre-Production
Story Rights 3,500
Screenplay 150,000
Pre-Production Subtotal 153,500
Production
Production Staff 182,500
Set Operations 147,500
Property 20,000
Wardrobe 2,500
Makeup and Hairdressing 500
Electric 35,000
Camera 50,000
Sound 15,000
Transportation 165,000
Location 150,000
Production Film and Laboratory 8,000
BTL Travel 25,000
Production Subtotal 800,500
Post-Production
Editing 125,000
Music 20,000
Post-Production Sound 7,000
Post-Production Film and Laboratory 7,000
Titles 2,000
CGI 15,000
Post-Production Subtotal 176,000
Administrative
Insurance 85,000
General Administrative 65,000
Completion Bond 20,000
Administrative Subtotal 170,000
Contingency 50,000
Marketing 500,000
Total 2,500,000

Book and Bible

A companion book, China: In Transition, to the movie in popular style, written by the lead group but drafted by an award-winning journalist, will accompany the film documentary. The book will be aimed at a broad market with best-seller status and with deep praise expected. It will have incredible endorsements from renowned leaders.

Along side the film documentary and companion book is a new translation of the Chinese Bible. The 1909 version now in use is being redone and updated and will be ready for publication in about a years time. We have access to the Chinese translation team of scholars doing that Bible. We have had high-level discussions in China with the proper officials that suggest if we co-produced with a leading university we could co-publish it and sell it in bookstores and churches throughout all of China and of course in Asia through normal channels.

The combination of the best, thoughtful documentary on China, a companion book, and this new Bible make for a powerful group or ‘bundle’ of products that can be marketed and sold together and/or alone.



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