CCTV Documentary: The Rise of the Great Nations
People in China noticed that the media have been unusually outspoken lately. An article published in an on-line chat room cited a few examples, including published interviews with human rights activists and dissent academics who are not favored by government censors, and several articles frankly advocating democracy and rule of law, something not very often seen in mainland media.
But the most remarkable media event recently is a documentary series, The Rise of the Great Nations, aired on one of China’s major propaganda organs, China Central Television.
The 12 part documentary looked into the rise of nine of the world's main powers, including Germany, Spain, Japan and the United States, over the past 500 years and examined why they thrived. Unlike the Communist Party’s long-time interpretation of history as ruled by class struggles and censure of capitalism, the documentary provided rather objective and factual narratives and analysis, an approach so unusual for CCTV that many viewers said they could not believe the show was produced by the station.
Mai Tianshu, one of the creators of the documentary, told a Chinese newspaper that the show aimed at helping the public to understand what is the origin and future trend of modern society, the importance of reason, compromise and cooperation in building a new system, and the necessity of a strong central power.
In the cyberspace and other media, people are comparing The Rise of the Great Nations with another mind-shaking documentary, The Young Death of a River. It was aired on the same station 18 years ago and has been deemed as having fanned the democracy fever among young people and therefore facilitated the demonstration at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Young Death of a River, or He Shang, denounced the traditional Chinese civilization, nurtured by the Yellow River, as close-minded and hidebound, and called on the Chinese nation to learn from western society’s “ocean civilization” in order to step up as a modern nation.
Some analysts say that like The River, The Rise foreshadows new moves of political reform, but others say it is just one implement of Chinese leadership’s intention to learn from western society, including its democratic and legal system, in search of appropriate ways for China’s modernization. Still others say the show is a good education for Chinese people, preparing them for China’s rise as a world power.
----by Josie Liu