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The Men Who Would Conquer China

A Film by Nick Torrens and Jane St. Vincent Welch

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For 4,000 years China largely succeeded, both culturally and economically, in keeping the rest of the world at bay. Following its introduction of reforms in the 1980's, however, including a transition from a socialist to a market economy, China allowed multinational corporations to set up shop. Now that the world's most populous nation is clearly on a fast track to capitalism, American investors are eagerly exploring ways to exploit China's new 'economic miracle.'

THE MEN WHO WOULD CONQUER CHINA follows the efforts of wealthy New York investment banker Mart Bakal and his well-connected Hong Kong business partner Vincent Lee as they join forces in an effort to create the perfect mix of economic and political opportunity in China. Bakal is enthusiastic about the extraordinary business opportunity - as he says, "Within 20 years China will equal the U.S. in economic strength and power" - but first he and Lee must figure out how to overcome a frustrating array of cultural and legal obstacles.

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As the film chronicles their efforts in New York, Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai over a three-year period, it becomes apparent that their different cultural perspectives are as much a weakness as a strength. We join them as they engage in difficult negotiations with Chinese government bureaucrats, tour Chinese factories seeking Western investment, attend business luncheons and official receptions, and become embroiled in their own disputes and arguments. In separate conversations, in fact, both Bakal and Lee privately express frank criticisms and doubts about his prospective business partner.

The business scheme they succeed in signing with the Chinese government involves the purchase of failed state-owned companies, which Bakal and Lee plan to restructure through improved management techniques, in order to then resell them at a considerable profit to multinational corporations. As foreign investment in China rapidly approaches the $100 billion level, and social inequality and unemployment continue to rise, the film offers a revealing portrait of the vast social changes taking place. In particular, THE MEN WHO WOULD CONQUER CHINA makes us ponder the potential long-term impact of capitalism on China.

Also available in a 78 minute version

"Highly Recommended! ...An engaging and often humorous examination of two dynamic opportunists from dramatically different social and business cultures discussing issues, reaching crisis stage, resolving differences, and ultimately merging their strategies and resources... It is wildly informative and entertaining… a tremendous piece of work, giving its audiences a witty yet astute exploration of the intersection of globalization and entrepreneurship in China."—Educational Media Reviews Online

"Engaging…instructive…the film will be useful in communication courses as well as Asian Studies courses."—Asian Educational Media Service News and Reviews

"A dramatic and humorous narrative which compares the values and motivations of the North American and the Chinese locked together by perceived mutual advantage in a struggle crucial to the future of each."—Chaos Generation Weblog

2006 Association for Asian Studies Film Festival
Best Feature Documentary of 2004, Film Critics Circle of Australia
Best Editing in a Documentary, 2004 Australian Film Institute Awards
2005 Chicago International Documentary Festival
2005 Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs

58 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2005
Copyright: 2004

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Also available in a 78 minute version

Subject areas:
Asia, Business, Business Ethics, China, East Asia, Economics, Geography, Globalization, Multi-Cultural Studies

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