Millions of Workers in China Are Laid Off As China Moves Toward a Market Economy; Pbs Premiers a New Film On China, But the Arrest of the Film Crew Doesn’t Make the Cut

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Workers in the United States aren’t the only ones who are seeing their pensions disappear.

As many as 2,000 former workers from a closed brick and tile factory in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia have clashed with the police, and hundreds are occupying the factory, demanding pension benefits.

There have been hundreds of such disputes in China in recent years. As China moves toward a market economy, millions of workers are being laid off and their pension funds are disappearing, leaving workers with nothing in a society in which people are increasingly forced to fend for themselves.

Tonight, PBS is premiering a new film about China directed by filmmaker Jon Alpert, who directs Downtown Community Television, where we are based. Jon recently returned from a trip to China, where almost the entire film crew was arrested. But you won’t learn about that in the film.

We’ll start with an excerpt of an interview with Jiang Xueqin, a Chinese-Canadian journalist who worked with Jon Alpert on the film. He was in New York last month after he was deported from China, as he was trying to cover labor unrest.


  • Jiang Xueqin, freelance reporter for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Time, The Nation and other publications, interviewed 6/17/02.

Jon Alpert’s film will be the second in a new PBS television series called “Wide Angle.” Its mission as described on its own website reads:

“Americans, post-September 11, recognize a new and urgent need to understand the political, economic, and social forces shaping the world today. To address this need, Thirteen/WNET New York [presents] WIDE ANGLE, a weekly series of one-hour documentaries, hosted by Daljit Dhaliwal and James P. Rubin, that will expand Americans’ global consciousness. From the global terrorist threat to the global economy, from courage in the face of human rights abuses to triumph over political corruption, WIDE ANGLE will tell critical stories from nations and people across the globe–stories that Americans cannot afford to ignore.”

The series premiered last week with a show titled, “Saddam’s Ultimate Solution.” The show featured unnamed sources in shadow making allegations about Saddam’s terrorist links and biological weapons program. It was hosted by James Rubin, Assistant Secretary of State under Clinton and chief spokesman for Secretary of State Madeleine Albright— a fierce proponent of bombing Iraq. This program is Rubin’s “journalistic” debut. The China documentary is followed by an extended interview with former US Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky–a fierce proponent of US trade with China. When does public media cross the line into state media?


  • Jon Alpert, filmmaker and journalist, Downtown Community Television. He recently returned from China where he shot “To Have and Have Not” which premieres on the PBS “Wide Angle” series tonight.


  • “To Have and Have Not” on the PBS “Wide Angle” series.

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