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Obama’s ‘first film’ is too late to soften US-China antagonism


The first documentary produced by Barack and Michelle Obama for Netflix debuted on Aug 21, 2019, called ‘American Factory’

This film documents what happened to an Ohio General Motors plant that closed after the 2008 financial crisis and was later bought by a Chinese company. Its name is ‘American Factory’.

CBS News reported that it is the “first documentary produced by (former President) Barack and Michelle Obama for Netflix.

Directed by veteran independent filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, the film looks at the economic and personal toll that the closure, which resulted in the loss of 2,000 jobs, had on residents of Moraine, Ohio, and at what happened after the facility was acquired by a Chinese investor in 2014.

The factory was reopened as Fuyao Glass, an auto-glass manufacturer that promised the return of jobs to the community …

“… ‘A good story gives you the chance to better understand someone else’s life,’ Mr. Obama said Wednesday (Aug 21) in a tweet. ‘It can help you find common ground. And it’s why Michelle and I were drawn to Higher Ground’s first film, ‘American Factory’ …”

As the film shows near the end, however, the ‘return of jobs’ was not as good as expected because of more automation. It also reveals that cooperation and transition were “anything but smooth” and there were lots of “differences in work culture and business practices between American and Chinese workers …” Some could be resolved, but some were not.

“… In a statement issued by Netflix last year, the Obamas said they ‘hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.’”

Promoting mutual understanding and the idea of co-existence etc is a respectful attempt. Whereas it is being done inside the Third World such as the BRICS, such an endeavor for the West-China relations has been too late, and too little.

‘Trade war’, ‘cyber war’, ‘new Cold War’, ‘space war’, ‘proxy war’, ‘5G war’, ‘Sharp Power propaganda war’ … are now filling the news headlines and commentaries. Exchanges between the West and China (and also Russia) of condemnations and criticisms on all fronts have almost become daily routine.

President Trump could have won the trade war easily but since he wanted to get more trophies to the extent that it was beyond Beijing’s tolerance, the trade dispute has caused a hostile tension between these two powers.

The present situation is similar to the historical event of Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon river in Jan 49BC. The phrase is a metaphor which means to pass a point of no return. You and I are perhaps witnessing such a crossing at this moment. Both Washington and Beijing, willingly or unwillingly or both, seems entering into a warlike mode. Sad!

The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.

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About keith K C Hui

Keith K C Hui is a Chinese University of Hong Kong graduate major in Government and Public Administration and the author of "Helmsman Ruler: China's Pragmatic Version of Plato's Ideal Political Succession System In The Republic" (2013).

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