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Analysis of the Film up the Yangtze Coursework

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Updated: May 31st, 2022

Introduction

The film’s title can be thought of as a summary of the film itself as it encapsulates the journey of the cruise ship that the documentary follows as it goes up the Yangtze river portraying the various landscapes, lives, and environments that were affected as a direct result of the construction of the 3 Gorges Dam.

Hardships of the Yu Family

In the film, it is seen that the Yu family lives in a dilapidated hut right beside the river. They have little if no income to speak of and survive by planting their vegetables right beside their home. Once the 3 Gorges Dam is finished and the area is flooded the Yu family will have to relocate to another area where not only will they have to pay rent but find local jobs, a daunting prospect for a family that is largely illiterate and uneducated.

Understanding the Statement “Sacrifice the Small Family for the Big Family”

The statement “Sacrifice the Small Family for the Big Family” is similar to the saying “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”, this means that it is at times necessary to sacrifice the rights of a minority so that the majority can benefit. It must also be noted that the term “family” refers to China’s population with the “big family” representing the Chinese population that needs the 3 Gorges dam due to the electricity it could provide with “the small family” representing those that were displaced as a direct result of its construction. As for whether or not I agree with this particular philosophy, I would have to say that I do agree since it makes little sense to sacrifice the needs of many for that of the few.

Explaining the Quote of Confucius

In a way, it can be stated that the quote encapsulates the idea behind the documentary in that it somewhat criticizes the actions of the Chinese government as not finding its unique way in the world. For example, the second part of the stanza of the quote states that “imitation is the easiest”, this can be likened to how China has imitated certain aspects of capitalism to progress as a society. The 1st part of the quote states “reflection is noblest”, this can be compared to how the Chinese government has failed to reflect on its actions on orienting itself towards a capitalist approach. Throughout the documentary, it is shown that China’s progress has been supported on the backs of the poor and disenfranchised and as such is a complete reversal of what communism used to stand for, namely equality for all under a single nation. The last part of the quote which reflects on how experience is the bitterest is indicative of the current experiences of the poor within China and how they continue to suffer under the changed system wherein the government has failed to deliver on its promise for equality and has instead presented them with a system of continuous subservience to the rich and powerful. Taking this into consideration it can be thought of that through this bitter experience the majority of Chinese people will learn from this experience and implement new systems of government that place greater value towards ensuring ordinary people can live decent lives.

Relationship between the Tourists and the Employees

It is rather disheartening to see that in various instances where the interaction between Western tourists and the ship’s employees is shown it was seen that they treated the staff with a certain degree of arrogance in that their behavior was condescending, rude, and downright disrespectful. It is noticeable that their behavior was condescending, rude, and downright disrespectful. It is noticeable that the Western tourists thought nothing of the employees on the ship and were enjoying the “show” of the death throes of the area that will eventually be flooded when the 3 Gorges Dam is completed. This is further worsened by the fact that a lot of the locals that work on the ship, particularly Yu Shui, have families that have been displaced by the creation of the dams and as such the actions of the tourists and even the service of the pleasure boat itself are like salt on a fresh wound.

Additional Information about the 3 Gorges Dam

One interesting tidbit of information that I learned about the creation of the 3 Gorges Dam is the fact that not only is it meant to power the various metropolises that have been built within China but it is meant to help power China’s vast manufacturing industry. It can even be said that the 3 Gorges Dam itself is symbolic of China’s push towards industrialization and modernization at the cost of traditions and the local environment.

Political Position and Bias of the Documentary

When viewing the documentary it becomes obvious that its underlying theme is the message that China’s societal progress has been built upon the backs of people that have so far supported its social structure in that it is the poor and disenfranchised that have paid the price for China’s progress into the modern world. The political orientation of the film is one of criticism against the Chinese government because it straddles the fence between capitalism and communism resulting in the combination of several of their worse traits resulting in economic growth for the few while the many are expected to become akin to subservient lambs that should move and act when told. The bias of the film is oriented towards portraying the gradual erosion of Chinese traditions in favor of modernity and industrialization. This is seen in its portrayal of the beauty of the Yangtze River with its beautiful gorges, peaks, and thoroughfares which are contrasted with the hype, modernity, and neon lights of China’s present-day cities.

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