Why Poverty? China's Ant People

Radio Times
Review by:
David Crawford

In 1997 the Chinese government privatised universities. Top students get to go to subsidised colleges while the rest have to pay higher fees at private institutes. This revelatory documentary lifts the lid on the dispiriting reality of the education system of the world’s second largest economy. It’s worth watching just for the jaw-dropping scenes in which the guilt-ridden tutor of a profit-hungry college gives blatantly fraudulent presentations to prospective students.

We also follow a rural student whose dreams of escaping poverty rely on going to an expensive fees-based college – just like the one the tutor is touting. If you want a glimpse of how China’s rush to embrace the markets is affecting its population, look no further.

About this programme

The Chinese have been taught for years that the only way out of poverty is through education, yet it seems the system only leads to employment for a few. This film, set in Wuhan, central China, looks at the realities of Chinese education through the lives of Wang Zehziang, a tutor at a private college, Wang Pan, a high-school graduate and would-be university student, and Wan Chao, a jobseeker.

Cast and crew


Weijun Chen
Series Editor
Nick Fraser