Latest articles of Peter Rainer China Question2011-09-15T19:50:57Z<p style="text-align: left;">There is probably no more pertinent global question right now than the China question. Adding his voice to the chorus of queries is American director Brook Silva-Braga, whose documentary The China Question trots out an impressive roster of talking heads to grapple with the issue, including Harvard economist and historian Niall Ferguson, Orville Schell, director of the Asia Society&rsquo;s U.S.-China Center, Barry Naughton, author of The Chinese Economy, Wu Jianmin, former Chinese ambassador to the U.N., and Cui Zhiyuan, a leading member of China&rsquo;s New Left. Gaining rare Western access to the inner workings of Chinese factories, Silva-Braga lays out the implications, specifically for Americans, of China&rsquo;s economic ascendancy. Silva-Braga&rsquo;s mother declares early on that, for moral reasons, she will never buy any Chinese-made goods. This proves to be rather difficult, since, it seems, just about everything, including American flags and the popular American Girl doll, is made in China. In a larger sense, the film asks what it means for Americans, and by extension many other democratic countries, to contribute to China&rsquo;s rise, given its suppression of free speech and history of jailing dissidents. We are told that every day China sells a billion dollars of goods just to the United States, which is four times as much as the U.S. sells daily to China. Alan Tonelson, of the U.S. Business and Advisory Council, says that &ldquo;there is no doubt that the biggest and only beneficiaries from the current U.S. and China relationship have been the the big, focused, outsourcing multinational companies who have recognized that producing in a very low cost, very lightly regulated country like China for a pricey market like the U.S. is a great way to expand your margins and profits. It&rsquo;s a no-brainer.&rdquo; To make this system work, China needs to create 25 million new jobs every year just to keep pace. And to create jobs China must remain the world&rsquo;s work force, which means it must keep winning on price &ndash;which means low wages. Chinese factory workers, many of whom are migrants from the countryside, make on average $200 a month. That&rsquo;s still higher than the $50-60 a month they would likely make as farmers. Niall Ferguson sums up: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m constantly struck by how much thought the Chinese leadership gives to the United States. In Washington I see no such long-term thinking.&rdquo;</p> <p style="text-align: right;"><span style="color: #808080;">&mdash;Peter Rainer</span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="color: #d12e34;"><a rel="nofollow" href=""><br /></a></span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><img style="float: left; margin-right: 25px;" title="The China Question" src="/s3/photos%2F2011%2F09%2F28942f5f698c48bb.png" alt="The China Question" width="172" height="267" /><span style="color: #4d7db1;">Available on DVD</span><br /><span style="color: #4d7db1;">from Earthchild Productions:</span><br /><span style="color: #4d7db1;"></span></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="color: #ff0000;"><a rel="nofollow" href="">Watch Preview</a></span></p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="color: #4d7db1;"><br /></span></p>A Remarkable Women in Light2011-01-02T17:34:52Z<blockquote> <p>Documentary tracing the life and&nbsp;career of iconic Muslim leader of&nbsp;Pakistan&rsquo;s post-Soviet generation.</p> </blockquote> <p><span style="color: #888888;">Bhutto directed by Duan Baughman&nbsp;and Johnny O&rsquo;Hara</span></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;"><img style="float: left; padding: 0px 40px 40px 0px;" title="Benazir Bhutto" src="/s3/photos%2F2011%2F03%2F1c23fb90a876543b.png" alt="Benazir Bhutto" width="259" height="434" /></span></p> <p><span>O</span>n Dec. 27<span>th</span>, 2007, Benazir Bhutto,&nbsp;the first woman in history to lead&nbsp;a Muslim nation, was assassinated at&nbsp;a Pakistan People&rsquo;s Party (PPP) rally in&nbsp;Rawalpindi. The documentary Bhutto&nbsp;chronicles the decades-long events leading&nbsp;up to that still unsolved killing and&nbsp;its immediate aftermath. It&rsquo;s a tangled&nbsp;tale, with much that remains murky, but&nbsp;the co-directors Duane Baughman and&nbsp;Johnny O&rsquo; Hara have done a fairly good&nbsp;job of elucidating the issues, or at least&nbsp;clarifying the confusions.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s fitting that Benazir Bhutto should&nbsp;be the centerpiece of a major movie, since&nbsp;during her lifetime she had the glamorized&nbsp;aura of a movie star. Like a number&nbsp;of other high-profile figures in the political&nbsp;arena &ndash;most conspicuously the UN&nbsp;diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello, who&nbsp;was killed by a truck bomb in Baghdad&nbsp;in 2003 and was the subject last year of a&nbsp;powerful documentary, Sergio&ndash; Benazir&nbsp;Bhutto was both historically significant&nbsp;and personally charismatic.</p> <p>This is also true of her extended family&nbsp;clan, which has often been referred to&nbsp;as the &ldquo;Pakistani Kennedys.&rdquo; The Kennedy&nbsp;reference is double-edged: it summons&nbsp;up not only a vast political legacy&nbsp;but family tragedy as well.</p> <p>Before the film&rsquo;s opening credits have&nbsp;even finished, we are already hit with a&nbsp;rapid-fire history of Pakistan dating from&nbsp;the 1947 partition onward. Zulfikar Ali&nbsp;Bhutto, Benazir&rsquo;s father, the first democratically&nbsp;elected president of Pakistan,&nbsp;occupies much of the film&rsquo;s beginning&nbsp;section. His execution in 1979 under the&nbsp;regime of Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq,&nbsp;who staged a military coup two years&nbsp;before, sets the stage for Benazir&rsquo;s ascension&nbsp;as her father&rsquo;s hand-picked favorite&nbsp;to succeed him. She speaks repeatedly in&nbsp;the movie, through audio and video footage,&nbsp;of how her father&rsquo;s death vigil prepared&nbsp;her for a political career.</p> <p>Benazir, who was educated at Harvard&nbsp;and Oxford, goes into self-imposed&nbsp;exile in the West in 1984 after years of&nbsp;house arrest. Returning to Pakistan a&nbsp;year later to face down General Zia, she&nbsp;becomes, at 35, prime minister in 1988.&nbsp;(Two years later she gives birth while in&nbsp;office, another first for a female world&nbsp;leader).</p> <p>Twenty months after her election&nbsp;she is dismissed on corruption charges.&nbsp;In 1993, at a time when the PPP captured&nbsp;most of the parliamentary seats,&nbsp;she returns in triumph for a second term&nbsp;as prime minister. Within three years&nbsp;she is ousted once again on charges of&nbsp;corruption. At the time of the Rawalpindi&nbsp;rally she was moting yet another political&nbsp;comeback.</p> <p>All of this dizzying back and forth&nbsp;is punctuated by persistent violence,&nbsp;including the killing of two of Benazir&rsquo;s&nbsp;brothers. In an interview, Fatima, the&nbsp;daughter of one of the brothers, blames&nbsp;Benazir&rsquo;s husband Alif Zardari, now&nbsp;president of Pakistan, with having engineered&nbsp;her father&rsquo;s murder.</p> <p>What are we to make of such&nbsp;charges? Although the film directors&nbsp;make a pretense of even-handedness,&nbsp;the overall tone of Bhutto is somewhat&nbsp;hero-worshippy. (One of the film&rsquo;s producers,&nbsp;Mark Siegel, was a close friend of&nbsp;Benazir and co-authored her final book&nbsp;Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy, and&nbsp;the West.) The corruption charges that&nbsp;dogged Benazir&rsquo;s trail are never deeply&nbsp;delved into, despite the fact that reporters&nbsp;such as the New York Times&rsquo;s John&nbsp;F. Burns, who wrote extensively on the&nbsp;matter, are interviewed on camera.</p> <p>What emerges from the film, nonetheless,&nbsp;is a portrait of a remarkable&nbsp;woman who, despite the charges leveled&nbsp;against her, both real and trumped-up,&nbsp;instituted social reforms in Pakistan&nbsp;against great odds. That she became a&nbsp;martyr was surely not her intention and&nbsp;yet, given the entwined history of her&nbsp;family and her country, her martydom&nbsp;seems in retrospect inevitable.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: right;"><span style="white-space: pre;">&ndash; Peter Rainer</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" title="Benazir Bhutto" src="/s3/photos%2F2011%2F03%2Fbdecd9725a44e5e5.png" alt="Benazir Bhutto" width="550" height="441" /></p> <p><span style="color: #808080;">Photo by Lichfield/Getty Images</span></p>