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Death by China | Review

A provocative title indeed. Adapted from his book of the same name, Peter Navarro’s opinionated documentary works hard to get its point across.

Death by China sets out to convey its key message which is “…the problem facing America today is its increasingly destructive economic trade relationship with a rapidly rising China.

The point is made several times early on in the film which ultimately ends up feeling a tad repetitive.  The documentary works arduously to present data to support its various assertions that trade policies with China are inadequate, even negligent, but it is difficult to escape the sense that this movie is seeking simply to imbue the viewer with a sense of impending doom instead of presenting a balanced and informative perspective.  Martin Sheen’s urgent narration combined with slick graphics depicting “Weapons of Job Destruction” (and the like) compound the problem – effectively turning Death by China, at times, into a cold war style propaganda film.

The movie draws interesting parallels between the bleak situation of American workers who have lost their jobs and the Chinese workers who have jobs but have little in the way of labor protection laws to prevent their exploitation.  The filmmakers are unambiguous about who they hold responsible for the situation – the Chinese Government, along with the usual suspects of US politicians (of both persuasions) and the multinational corporations.

Death by China is a competently constructed documentary with a very defined point of view.  Indeed, the passion of the filmmakers may even make you rally for political action if you are so inclined.  If you are not, you may find the tone overwhelming.

Death by China opens this Friday, August 17 at Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena – Peter Navarro will be at the Playhouse 7 for Q&As on both Friday and Saturday – on Saturday following the 7:30PM show there will be a Q&A with special guests from the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Tibetan Dissident communities.


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