SINGAPORE — Singaporean production house Moving Bits has announced a new partnership with the China Intercontinental Communication Center (CICC) to develop and produce a six-part documentary series for American audiences titled, The Eagle & the Dragon: Stories From Inside China. The announcement was made at the first day of conferences at the 13th edition of the Asia TV Forum and Market (ATF) in Singapore.
According to Moving Bits executive producer Tim Baney, the new series will attempt to explain contemporary China to American audiences in a way that allows them to recognize themselves in the story of Chinese economic growth and the ambitions of ordinary Chinese citizens.
“China today looks like America did a generation or two ago, when it was expanding,” Baney said.
Moving Bits, which has offices in both Singapore and the U.S., says the show will explore iconic cultural elements traditionally associated with the United States — mega malls, luxury cars, a glamorous, star-driven film industry — and show how the bling-iest forms of such cultural and economic phenomena are now to be found in the world’s most populous nation.
“The basic premise is that if average Americans see the amazing ways China has developed — how modern and impressive parts of Chinese life are now — it will blow their minds,” said Moving Bits CEO Jay Soo.
Moving Bits will produce the series and CICC, which operates as China’s answer to Voice of America, is funding the project. Moving Bits says their partnership with CICC will give them behind the scenes access to the factories, boom towns and ordinary lives that have driven China’s extraordinary growth, while posing such questions as: “Is this slave labor, or has this explosion of manufacturing lift[ed] the average Chinese out of poverty?”
Baney says they hope to sell the series to all major markets, although a Western audience is their main target. The producers also hope CICC can help negotiate sales within China itself. The Hollywood Reporter has learned that PBS are interested in picking up the U.S. rights to the show.
The promotion of Chinese culture abroad is a major priority of the Chinese government, a task the CICC is expressly charged with—enhancing the country’s so-called ‘soft power’, in an effort to bring Chinese cultural influence more in line with its new-found economic might.
Asked whether the producers feel at all conflicted about playing a part in what is, in one light, a state-financed PR effort, Baney said: “If we felt that we were promoting something sinister, we might; but I think what we’re actually doing is showing how the Chinese are a lot like us—they just have their own sensibilities and ways of telling stories. The political critiques have been done many times; this story is also important.”