Those who missed seeing Tavis Smiley’s China special on PBS from July 11 to 15, an entertaining and informative series that features many Committee of 100 members as China escorts and commentators, can now view each episode online, along with transcripts and links: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/features/china/
Late-night talk show host and media entrepreneur Tavis Smiley first visited China as part of the Committee of 100 Journalists Delegation in 2010: “I knew that I needed to come back with my television crew. I wanted Americans to see how much their own values are in common with the people of China. They too are looking for a life as good as its promise.” With C-100’s assistance, Smiley returned this spring with a crew of 30, and this five-night show is the result.
The documentary-style series ends with a panel discussion about China and Chinese Americans with three Committee of 100 members, former C-100 Chairman John Chen, current Chairman Dominic Ng, and film producer Janet Yang, and UCLA Associate Dean Cindy Fan. Among the topics addressed were rising Southern California residential property market values due to new home-buyers from China, the gap between the haves and have-nots in China, American versus Chinese educational systems, and Chinese perceptions of current American economic problems. Chen closed the discussion by predicting anti-China rhetoric in the 2012 election campaigns, at a time when the Chinese are feeling stronger and more assertive about their international rights.
Smiley made a special effort to search out people not often encountered by foreign tourists or business people in China, such as poor, migrant workers. With Committee Governor Shirley Young, who lives part-time in Shanghai, as guide and interpreter, Smiley and his colleague Princeton professor Cornel West watched song and dance performances at the elite Jiaotong School outside Shanghai where migrant workers’ children are now admitted and afterwards visited the children’s homes. Young took them to the one-room home of a family whose walls are papered with the son’s certificates of school accomplishment and felt it was important that Americans see this side of China as well as the sparkling cities and high-speed rail. Smiley reflected:
So the majority of the people in this country are poor, and today was a fascinating day because the last time I was in China I got a chance to sense a little bit of this, but I didn’t spend as much time as I did today with the migrant workers, the children of those migrant workers who were fighting to get a high-quality education.
You spend all your time shopping in Beijing and all your time hanging out in the clubs or shopping or dining out in Shanghai, you really miss the larger part of what China is all about. You spend time with these migrants and their children, you really get a chance to see what the rest of China, the majority of China, really looks like.
Smiley and one of the China Special producers narrated a private preview of the series for Los Angeles Committee members at the home of Roger Wang on July 12. Also attending the screening and discussion were Stewart Kwoh, new member Li Lu, Dominic Ng, and C-100 Executive Director Angie Tang.