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Young & Restless in China PBS Frontline Review

By Kam Williams

Preppies and Slackers of Capitalist China Are the Subject of PBS Documentary

How has the current generation of Chinese adults just coming of age adjusted to their country's embrace of capitalism and the ensuing rush to rapid modernization? That question is the focus of this informative Frontline PBS episode which offers an intimate look inside the lives of nine such young adults followed with a camera for four years by Sue Williams.

The intrepid director has built her career around investigating the Orient, having previously made such related documentaries as "China in Revolution," "The Mao Years," "China: Born under the Red Flag" and "China in the Red." The subjects of this revealing expose’ all seem to be a bit overwhelmed by the nation’s frenetic pace and the populace’s addiction to money simply for the sake of status and materialism. This point of view is shared by all the participants, whether preppies, like most, a gangsta-rapping slacker, or a blushing bride who has agreed to an arranged married to a guy she's only spent a couple of hours with.

Ironically, it seems that considerable compromises in the quality of life are being made in quest of the almighty dollar. For example, Ben Wu wonders why he gave up a six-figure salary and left his wife and kids behind in America in order to return home to open an internet café.

But anyone watching can easily answer that: China is the land of opportunity for any well-connected males with a good education. However, if you're a female, life might not exactly be a bed of lotus blossoms. The women interviewed here relate nightmares like having to drop out of school to work in a rice paddy to help pay for a brother's education.

Another is a public interest lawyer dump by her boyfriend for being to devoted to a class action case she brought on behalf of the over a million citizens summarily dispossessed by eminent domain to make room for the site of the 2008 Olympics. Then there's the already mentioned fiancée who, despite the fact that she's technologically entered the 21st Century, still can't summon the strength to break with tradition and simply choose her own mate.

The coolest dude and biggest loser is Wang, an aspiring hip-hop artist who sent what little savings he had to his name a cute girl who sent him some photos of herself over the internet. Poor sucker had no idea he was probably exchanging sweet nothings all along with some heartless hustler over in Nigeria.

What a world! What a world!

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 104 minutes
Studio: PBS

Young & Restless in China premieres on PBS, Tuesday, June 17 at 9 PM ET (Check local listings)

See a trailer for the show"

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