Singing karaoke with Taiwanese investors, smearing birthday cake on the cheeks of an American factory owner, knocking back baijiu, a Chinese spirit, with property developers: Guo Yongchang would do anything to attract investment to Gushi, a county of 1.6m people in Henan province, where he served as party secretary. His antics are recorded in “The Transition Period”, a remarkable fly-on-the-wall documentary about his last months in office, filmed by Zhou Hao.
The Economist reviews Zhou Hao’s The Transition Period and places the film in the context of how local-level government operates, and the effect of its policies on shaping China’s economy and society:
When the government urged the banks to support its 2008 stimulus effort, local governments scrambled to claim an outsized share of the lending. The result is a local-government debt burden worth over a fifth of China’s 2011 GDP.
The worst abuses, however, involve land. Local officials can convert collectively owned rural plots into land for private development. Since farmers cannot sell their land directly to developers, they have to accept what the government is willing to pay. Often that is not very much.
The Transition Period is available as part of the dGenerate catalog.