China: Triumph and Turmoil

China: Triumph and Turmoil

Series 1 - Episode 1



At the start of his three-part attempt to understand modern China, Niall Ferguson shows us the smog-covered city of Chongqing.

In the last five years, he tells us, the population of this megalopolis has quadrupled. It now numbers 30 million people. But Ferguson’s real mission is to get beyond the sheer scale of China and do some explaining, which he does brilliantly.

His main point is that ever since the First Emperor pulled the two million square miles and numerous ethnic groups of China together, its rulers have relied on authoritarian rule to stop it flying apart. So Chinese society is all about the Confucian idea of “harmony” (ie know your place) rather than what Westerners think of as freedom. The threat to all this, though, is the “cancer” in Chinese public life: corruption on a scale it is hard to imagine.


Niall Ferguson examines China's rapid rise as a global financial superpower, exploring how its communist government has maintained relative stability despite relying on a largely capitalist economy. He begins by looking at how the country's vast apparatus of state often requires subjugating individual freedom for the greater good.