Last updated: 7 february, 2011 - 16:49 GMT

Asia

China: Shaking the World

"China," Napoleon is believed to have once said, "is a sleeping giant. When she awakes, she will shake the world."

China endured decades of occupation, division and international isolation since that 19th century warning. When it finally opened to the rest of the world, foreign money and expertise flooded in.

Now - little more than a generation later - China is poised to overtake Japan to become the world's second largest economy. Its unprecedented growth in exports has left it holding more foreign currency than any other nation - financial power which China is beginning to use to challenge the US dollar's long-standing dominance as the medium of international trade.

This documentary series examines the political, economic and cultural mechanisms of China's growing global influence. Michael Robinson, who documented China's awakening for the BBC almost 20 years ago, returns to assess the prospects and problems of the unrelenting shift of power from West to East.

Part One explores China's massive internal infrastructure transformation.

Part Two looks at the potentially world-shaking clash of cultures between non-democratic, state-planned China and the American-centred world of democracy and free market ideology.

Part Three looks at the social tensions within China that threaten the growth upon which much of the rest of the world now relies.

Part Four asks whether the political model which has delivered China's fantastic economic growth over the last 30 years is the same model that will deliver growth over the next 30 years.

Part One

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Money and expertise are now flowing in the other direction - from China to the rest of the world. China's economic resurgence has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty and helped the Communist Party maintain its authority and control - but potential dangers lie ahead.

Internally, there is a housing and construction bubble which some warn could burst, spreading problems far beyond China's borders.

Outside Chongqing, Mr Shi Yankang and his wife are happy the Chinese government is going to knock down their old home to make way for an industrial park. They say they will receive compensation and move into a modern apartment.

The Chinese government is knocking down this couple's home to make way for an industrial park. They will receive compensation and a modern apartment.

Outside the country, there are threats of trade sanctions from recession-hit America, where many accuse China of manipulating its currency to gain an unfair advantage. Also, increasing competition for the resources vital to China's continued growth risk further international tension.

This documentary series examines the political, economic and cultural mechanisms of China's growing global influence. Michael Robinson, who documented China's awakening for the BBC almost 20 years ago, returns to assess the prospects and problems of the unrelenting shift of power from West to East.

This is an updated version of the documentary that was first broadcast on 12 July 2010

Part Two

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Not so long ago international businesses were pressing China to open its borders so they could penetrate the world's most populous country.

They believed Chinese consumers were just waiting to be sold commodoties by international companies. However it didn't quite go according to plan - in fact the opposite happened and the prey became the predator.

And the global recession, centred on the developed economies of America and Europe, has upset the balance further.

The recession has had some impact on China, but after a brief slowing down in growth (from a high pace), economists are getting ready for another Chinese spurt.

There is also the fact that China is awash with cash. It holds around a quarter of all US Federal Reserves - about $750bn. This, plus all the cash the Europeans owe, puts China in a position to dictate terms.

It has become the world's banker.

First broadcast on 19 July 2010

Part Three

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Disputes over wages and working conditions in the factories of China's east coast have grabbed most of the headlines in recent years. But there are long-simmering problems as well.

How to crack down on corrupt officials? What to do for farmers unhappy about the compensation they receive - or not - for land taken for development? All of these disputes underline a widening gap between China's rich and poor.

Wen Qiang, former senior justice official in Chongqing at his trial.

Wen Qiang, a former senior justice official in Chongqing, was the highest-ranking official arrested in the city's anti-corruption drive. He was executed in July 2010 (Photo: Xinhua)

Wen Qiang, a former senior justice official in Chongqing, was the highest-ranking official arrested in the city's anti-corruption drive. He was executed in July 2010 (Photo: Xinhua)

This programme examines China's leaders attempts to manage these growing conflicts and calls for political change - not for multi-party democracy, as some in the West advocate, but for a shift from a system of absolute Communist Party rule to one where individual rights are protected under law.

First broadcast on 26 July 2010

Part Four

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The series has shown how China is barrelling ahead with new infrastructure and new strategies to import the latest industrial technologies.

China's leaders now want a more fundamental change: They want Chinese ideas and innovation to drive their economy.

This programme follows people at the leading edge of that effort, in the arts and sciences. For some, it's a time of unparalleled freedom.

Professor Guosong Liu

Looking for new ideas: Prof Guosong Liu of Tsinghua University

Just look at some of the wacky buildings popping up in China's big cities. But others find creativity stifled by a traditional, top-down culture. Even at one of China's top universities, Tsinghua, some find it hard to generate original thought.

"This culture inhibits the evolution of new ideas," says Professor Guosong Liu. His colleague says this deferential culture will keep China behind the West in the race to create the next big thing.

First broadcast on 2 August 2010

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