The dominant decades-long story of China’s economic rise has in recent years been supplanted by a narrative of privileged power, corruption and government efforts to combat the corrosive impact on the society and the business ecosystem. Recent public disclosures of hundreds of millions of private files by global hackers implicate wealthy and politically influential people globally.
This documentary film tells the riveting behind-the-scenes story of how two American news organizations uncovered the hidden fortunes accumulated by the relatives of Xi Jinping and former prime minister Wen Jiabao. The film covers the controversies, threats, and intimidation of the Western media which followed. The retrenchment has spread across many sectors and continues in China today.
The film focuses on two articles which appeared in close succession in 2012. The first article prepared by a Bloomberg News team led by Michael Forsythe presented a sweeping expose of how relatives of Xi Jinping appear to have benefited from a variety of business deals. Soon after, the second article by David Barboza of the New York Times published revelations of wealth accumulated by Wen Jiabao’s relatives.
Both stories illustrate a new kind of investigative journalism that is increasingly important for understanding a rapidly changing China. The correspondents benefited from China’s evolution towards a more open, internationally engaged, market-style economy to unravel a series of complex, opaque, often hidden business dealings of the elite.
The behind-the-scenes story of the journalists who conducted the investigations and who faced the dramatic, controversial and often frightening consequences is based on extensive interviews with most of the leading figures involved. The film chronicles the emergence of a new kind of journalism that is increasingly crucial to reporters (and other professionals and business people operating in China) as the business community and the public at large seek to understand the dynamics of a new, wealthy, and increasingly powerful China.
“Follow the Money” is the final episode of Assignment China, a 12-part series chronicling the history of American correspondents in China from the 1940s to the present day produced by the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California. The lead reporter is Mike Chinoy, a Senior Fellow at the Institute and former CNN Beijing bureau chief and Senior Asia Correspondent.
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