Wild China

Last night I thought of writing something about the BBC documentary series Wild China that has just started its six-episode run. But events in China have taken a catastrophic turn in the form of a very wild natural event that is reported to have resulted in the deaths of thousands.

Unlike in Burma, the Chinese authorities are known for their skill in dealing with natural disasters such as the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Sichuan province early this morning. Let’s hope that all goes well with the emergency effort, and there are no aftershocks that take further lives.

The first episode of wildlife film producer Phil Chapman’s documentary broadcast yesterday was superb, and I’m looking forward very much to the rest of the series. The dead tree edition of the Radio Times this week describes the film as “sumptuous”, and for very good reason. Chapman says that there was a lot of negotiation involved between himself and the Chinese state broadcaster, which is ever wary of foreigners. Says Chapman:

Our greatest misconception of the country is that it’s military-dominated, industrialised, trashed, with a cowed population. Well, it just isn’t like that. China’s a big, beautiful country, with amazing people, most of whom don’t give a shit about Beijing or politics. I was expecting a much more guarded, fearful society, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’re in, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place.”

It sounds like the kind of place I should see for myself. What Chapman says is no doubt correct, and those of us who spend much time criticising China for its state capitalist dictatorship would do well to remember this and keep a sense of perspective. Totalitarianism is a complex beast.