Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • KOPPEL: This is a program about China,

  • so why are we beginning in Rolla, Missouri,

  • showing you a bunch of middle-age blue-collar workers

  • wandering around a job fair?

  • Do you have any office positions open?

  • -Currently, no. -No?

  • KOPPEL: Because China is where their jobs went.

  • China -- which relates how, exactly,

  • to Mexican migrant workers

  • picking cotton in North Carolina?

  • Well, that's where the cotton is going -- China.

  • WOMAN: Sit down, please.

  • Boys and girls, l feel a little cold.

  • l think l need some clothes.

  • KOPPEL: Don't worry.

  • That North Carolina cotton will be back

  • as soon as Chinese workers have milled it

  • and cut it and turned it into...

  • CHlLDREN: ...a hat...

  • a T-shirt...

  • a dress.

  • KOPPEL: lt won't occur to these children for some years to come,

  • but they are being trained

  • to compete in the global marketplace.

  • l used to work at Briggs & Stratton

  • and l'm unemployed and l'm looking for a job.

  • KOPPEL: American unemployed, Chinese children,

  • Mexican migrant workers.

  • They don't know one another.

  • They may not even care about one another.

  • But as you'll see,

  • they're all having an impact on one another's lives.

  • WOMAN: A 7.9-magnitude earthquake hit

  • in midafternoon...

  • MAN: ...report that schools and dormitories have all collapsed.

  • WOMAN #2: ...puts the death toll at more than 55,000.

  • The spectacle of a profound national tragedy

  • has a way of erasing differences.

  • We can all relate to people who never had much

  • and who've lost what little they had.

  • "There but for the grace of God," we say.

  • The earthquake struck a region of China's heartland

  • that the government has targeted for growth.

  • All we've been seeing these last couple of months, though --

  • what has engaged our attention and compassion --

  • is the massive destruction --

  • the loss of so many homes, so many schools,

  • the death of so many tens of thousands,

  • so many children.

  • We look at these scenes,

  • and even those among us who feel no connection

  • or even kinship with the Chinese

  • can empathize.

  • "There but for the grace of God."

  • We are all vulnerable,

  • and these days, we are all interdependent.

  • We'd been working for months in southwestern China

  • near where the earthquake struck.

  • Our base was the biggest city

  • that most Americans have never heard of --

  • Chongqing.

  • That's where it is on the map, along the Yangtze River

  • about 1 ,500 miles southwest of Shanghai.

  • [ Horn honks ]

  • lt's a city with an attitude,

  • a place that has something to prove.

  • And once we've shown you

  • a few of the things that are happening in Chongqing,

  • you'll begin to understand why China and the United States

  • might have a very difficult time

  • getting along without each other anymore.

  • The signs of interdependence are everywhere.

  • The city is blossoming

  • with the icons of American brands

  • like Ford, Ethan Allen, and Wal-Mart,

  • and that's merely scratching the surface.

  • Love it or hate it,

  • our economic futures seem irrevocably linked.

  • lt's a reality. Get used to it.

  • Let me set the scene for you.

  • A downtown square in Chongqing ringed with upscale shops,

  • most of them selling products

  • that would be completely out of reach,

  • unthinkably expensive for most Chinese.

  • And yet there is a new and rapidly growing class

  • of Chinese who can and do shop here,

  • people for whom price is no object --

  • hundreds of thousands,

  • perhaps even millions of such people --

  • a huge, new, and expanding market

  • for high-end Western goods.

  • But China's new wealths and its growing middle class

  • are still dwarfed by its hundreds of millions

  • who live just at the edge of survival.

  • The brutal truth

  • is that China can barely take care of its people.

  • There are simply too many,

  • which is why you see murals all over the countryside

  • proclaiming the government's one-child policy.

  • That's been the law for decades now.

  • To this day, the government will impose a hefty fine,

  • sometimes amounting for the poor to half a year's salary or more,

  • on a couple that has a second child.

  • lf anything, that has made children

  • especially precious to the Chinese.

  • Perhaps the worst unintended consequence

  • of that one-child policy

  • is that the earthquake left so many families childless.

  • lf they're still young enough to have children

  • and if they can prove their loss,

  • those families will now be granted the right to try again.

  • [ Shouting in Chinese ]

  • They love children. They really do.

  • But their government is trying to cope

  • with the largest population in the world,

  • competing for very limited resources.

  • You need to be able to look past the images

  • of regimented youngsters wearing the symbolic red kerchiefs.

  • There are tens of millions of these children

  • and hundreds of millions

  • of their desperately poor adult relatives.

  • They all need to be employed and housed and fed,

  • and Communism didn't do it.

  • What's beginning to do the job is capitalism.

  • As for that massive population base of poor people,

  • they are China's weakness and its strength.

  • Call it the Chinese paradox.

  • CHlLDREN: A...

  • B...

  • C...

  • KOPPEL: They are little engines of ambition...

  • WOMAN: W...

  • X...

  • Y...

  • Zed.

  • Okay. Very good.

  • KOPPEL: ...all but vibrating

  • with the earnest desire to succeed.

  • And all over China, from earliest childhood on,

  • English and computer literacy

  • are being drummed into their little heads.

  • China has big plans for this generation.

  • Their skills will far exceed those of their parents,

  • but that's down the road.

  • For the time being,

  • China's most significant contribution

  • to the global economy

  • remains cheap, reliable labor.

  • Line 'em up, snap it on,

  • plug it in, check it out, send it off.

  • Snap it on, plug it in, check it out, send it off.

  • Snap it on, plug it in, check it out, send it off.

  • Snap it on, plug it in, check it out, send it off.

  • lt's an endless, mindless, bottomless pit of a job.

  • Anyone who's ever worked an assembly line

  • can tell you about the pressure and the boredom and the fatigue.

  • But if they don't like it -- and many of them don't --

  • there is a vast labor force of Chinese countrypeople --

  • peasants and farmers --

  • more of them than the combined populations

  • of the United States and all of Europe,

  • desperate to take their places.

  • And that is where it all begins.

  • CROWD: 5...

  • 4...

  • 3...

  • KOPPEL: ln November of 2007,

  • a demolition company in Las Vegas, Nevada,

  • fulfilled its contract

  • to bring down the old Frontier Casino and Hotel.

  • lt was done in quintessentially American style...

  • [ Alarm blaring ]

  • ...quickly, efficiently, totally,

  • the debris loaded onto trucks and headed for landfill.

  • [ Shouting in Chinese ]

  • What this is not...

  • ...is a simple demolition project.

  • This is a Chinese-style recovery operation.

  • Buried within each of these concrete beams

  • is a long, valuable piece of steel rebar...

  • ...that can be melted down, recast, and reused.

  • When labor is plentiful and cheap enough,

  • it makes good economic sense

  • to chip the mortar off each individual brick

  • so that it can be reused in the building of a new structure.

  • These women make the equivalent of $1 to $2 a day.

  • Chip off the mortar, gather up the bricks,

  • hoist them on your shoulder, dump them in the truck.

  • Chip off the mortar, gather up the bricks,

  • hoist them on your shoulder, dump them in the truck.

  • The men here make more than the women.

  • Still only $3 to $4 a day, but they consider that good pay

  • compared to what they can earn at home,

  • which is essentially nothing.

  • Most of these people were subsistence farmers

  • who just barely fed themselves and their families.

  • ln a good year, they might have enough food left over

  • to raise a pig or two

  • that they could slaughter or sell at market.

  • [ Speaking Chinese ]

  • lNTERPRETER: lf l stay home working in farmland,

  • l won't make money.

  • KOPPEL: lf you're looking for a job in construction,

  • this is the place to be.

  • lt's estimated that 1 1/2 million people here

  • are working on construction-related jobs.

  • lt's already a big city -- about 13.5 million --

  • but it's part of an enormous municipality,

  • a region the size of Austria

  • with an overall population of more than 30 million people.

  • The goal over the next 10 to 15 years

  • is to expand the city out...

  • [ Horn honks ]

  • ...and draw the people in

  • until Chongqing is a megacity of 20 million,

  • with only 10 million or so people

  • left in the remaining countryside.

  • But the larger goal is to turn Chongqing

  • into an industrial hub,

  • an international center of industry and trade.

  • The city has already attracted significant American investment,

  • like this Briggs & Stratton plant,

  • where Chinese workers are now on the assembly line

  • building American engines.

  • WOMAN: This turned my life upside down.

  • l've got to look for a new career.

  • KOPPEL: Those engines used to be built here

  • at this shuttered Briggs & Stratton plant

  • in Rolla, Missouri.

  • l hate the fact that it cost me my job,

  • but, you know, businesses are out to make money.

  • We have a couple of openings...

  • KOPPEL: And while the move was good

  • for the corporate bottom line,

  • it badly hurt some of the workers,

  • especially the older ones who thought they'd retire at Briggs.

  • Now, like awkward teenagers at a prom,

  • they find themselves shuffling through a job fair.

  • lt's gonna be hard for me to get a job 'cause l'm 61 years old.

  • So far, every place l've applied for

  • has said l'm overqualified.

  • You know, the polite way of saying, "You're too old."

  • l'm Pam Leaser.

  • l'm a dislocated worker from Briggs & Stratton.

  • KOPPEL: Pam Leaser had been working at Briggs & Stratton

  • for almost 1 1 years.

  • She's clearly uncomfortable shopping for a new job.

  • She never thought she'd have to,

  • until the day a delegation from Chongqing, China, came calling.

  • They had a translator with them.

  • And my boss come up and he asks me

  • if l would care to explain to them

  • what my job was and how l did my job.

  • And l looked at him, and l told him, "No, l will not."

  • l just knew that down the road l was gonna be losing my job.

  • KOPPEL: Which is exactly what did happen

  • to about 480 Briggs & Stratton workers

  • on September 28, 2007.

  • Jim, l don't know

  • if you were kidding me before or exaggerating,

  • but you were talking at one point