Secrets of China (2015) s01e01 Episode Script

Fit In Or Fail

1 I'm Billie JD Porter and I'm going to show you a China you've never seen before.
With a population of 1.
3 billion, one in five of the world's people live in China.
It's a country where young people are under pressure and have to obey the rules.
(I snuck my phone in.
) But not everyone can be the best.
I'll reveal what happens when you push those people to extremes .
finding out how China tries to fix the kids who've stepped out of line.
Do you think you're a normal teenager? Oh, my God.
'I'll discover why online gaming is becoming dangerously popular 'as a way to escape the pressures of the system.
' Everyone's gaming.
'I'm going to ask whether the Chinese can really keep 'their young people in line and happy.
' SHE SINGS: BILLIE SINGS: Or is the whole country heading for an explosive stand-off? I'm starting my journey in the middle of the countryside in Hebei Province.
MUSIC: I'm Not Important To You by Sia It's coming up to 6am, I'm completely exhausted but I'm on my way to this boot camp for teenagers who have either been skipping school or doing something that their parents don't particularly like.
Sure I'll fit in! Principal Liu runs a private boot camp where parents can send children who don't obey their rules.
'Today, I'm joining the school to experience extreme discipline, 'Chinese-style.
' I thought I was going to be, like, sexy military.
Er, OK, regrettably .
there you go.
That's my lifeline, that's it.
Test me, then.
Go on, go on, go on.
I think I'm picking it all up pretty fast.
THEY SHOU 'These kids spend nine months in intensive training, 'isolated from their friends and families.
'Principal Liu aims to get them back into normal school 'and to obey their teachers and parents.
' How is this school different to a normal school? 'Life here is tough.
'There's no softly-softly approach, it's all about following orders.
' THEY SHOU 'A third of all the boys here have one major problem.
' What's the story with these guys? Don't be shy! Wait.
What do you mean? Without? So With no sleep, you just sat drinking water? (Wow.
) Why did you like the game so much? So these guys are all addicted to the game League of Legends.
Who's the most? Who is the most? LAUGHTER Out of the ones Out of you guys.
You? You? What really struck me about that chat with the boys just then was how much of an escape this game is.
When I asked them what they liked about League of Legends, I was expecting them to be really, like, gushing about how amazing it was and the graphics and the features, but really it was just that their real lives and the pressures of studying were just unbearable to the point that they have to immerse themselves in this game.
24 million teenagers are thought to be addicted to video gaming across China.
The boot camp has one approach for the problems the kids face here -- endless repetitive tasks, like cleaning.
Toilets, really? '16-year-old Chin-Yu is showing me the ropes.
' Yeah, yeah, I can do that.
I can do this.
I'm capable.
'This is the daily routine for nine months.
' Why are you here? When I was a teenager I used to go out a lot and I used to disappear for long periods of time as well.
Drink, I got arrested I wasn't very well-behaved.
I'm about to experience an hour-long dose of one of Principal Liu's most extreme methods.
BILLIE LAUGHS But you know when you tell someone to be serious, that makes them want to laugh more.
(This must've been nearly 15 minutes.
(I can't focus on the dot any more.
(My back really hurts.
(I feel horrible.
(I feel like I might cry.
) I couldn't focus on the dot on the blackboard.
My eyes hurt so much.
I was borderline hallucinating.
That was horrible.
That was absolute torture.
So what's the purpose of that lesson? Surely to improve concentration, you'd stimulate the brain, not, like I found that completely mind-numbing and quite upsetting.
Like, at one point, I actually thought I was going to burst into tears.
Principal Liu is determined to convince me that her methods do work and is inviting me to come back to see more.
But this boot camp is no ordinary school, so what it's actually like at a normal Chinese state school? It's 7am and the beginning of another tough day.
It may all look very military, but this is the way the Chinese education system tries to keep its kids in line.
Just like at the boot camp, it's all about strict discipline and no answering back.
I'm meeting 17-year-old Dongyao during her short lunch break.
She's China's idea of the perfect model student.
She's a member of the Youth Communist League and always top of the class.
You want her to go before you.
Why? Are there any naughty kids here who break the rules? 'Dongyao's headed for a good university, 'as long as she passes some of the world's toughest exams.
'But does she think all the pressure's worth it?' So if you don't go to university does that really, really limit your job prospects? So do you feel do you feel quite stressed about it? I left school at 16.
As soon as I was allowed to leave, I left school.
Erm I just wondered if you'd ever thought about that, if it had ever crossed your mind, that maybe you didn't want to go to university.
Dongyao is one of ten million applicants competing for just seven million university places.
It's clear there's a lot at stake here but teenagers just doing what they're told without question feels very different to back home.
So, why are the Chinese so obedient? I'm in the heart of Beijing, a tourist hot spot for people from all over China.
MUSIC: Gone Daddy Gone by Violet Femmes This country has been a Communist state for nearly 70 years.
I'm more of a Mao girl myself.
'In China, protests are banned 'and no other political parties are allowed.
'The souvenirs you can buy here 'say a lot about the Chinese way of thinking.
'It's all about respect for authority 'and there's one man who shapes this Chinese attitude -- 'the party's old leader, Chairman Mao.
' Look at these cute little car charms.
One of Mao I'm visiting one of China's Chairman Mao-themed restaurants -- very popular with the older generation.
Mao stage.
Mao died in 1976, so why is he still a hero to so many people here? What's the deal? Cos I don't know anything about these sorts of restaurants.
Why do people come here? How do you think that the youth of China today compares with when you were young, during the Revolution? People here don't talk about the other side of Mao.
MILITARY MUSIC PLAYS Under his leadership, tens of millions died of starvation.
Hundreds of thousands of political opponents were killed .
and the Communist Party indoctrinated millions of young people.
All to the soundtrack of military songs.
The older generation got used to oppressive leadership and strict rules, and often led very tough lives.
I wonder if that's why today's parents expect so much from their kids.
So, Dongyao, the high school student that I met the other day, has invited me round to her family home for lunch.
Brought some flowers to impress the parents.
- Nin hao.
- Hello.
- Hello.
- How are you? - I'm fine.
- Shall I take these off? - Yes.
'Dongyao's mum is a doctor, and her dad is in finance.
'She's got a lot to live up to.
' - Such a nice flat.
- Yeah.
'Today is her only day off from studying.
' INDISTINCT CHATTER This! - Can I have a go if I wash my hands? - Yeah.
- Can I? - Is that too much? - Too much.
Oh! 'China's one child policy means Dongyao has no brothers or sisters.
'All the family's hopes are pinned on her.
' OK, Mum! DONGYAO'S MUM LAUGHS This looks so good.
I'm so impressed.
How different is life in China today to the way that it was when you guys were younger, when you were at school? It's so incredible that that change happened in such a small amount of time.
Like, it's so, so fast for the whole country to be pretty much, like, transformed.
I just want to say thank you so much for having us, and I'm really, really grateful for my new family.
Thank you.
I loved Dongyao's parents, they were just so unbelievably sweet and welcoming and just so interesting.
Like, it was amazing to hear how different their lives were to their daughter's and, honestly, I think that's where the pressure comes from.
They want her to have the best future possible, because when they were younger, their options were really, really limited.
But not everybody can be the best.
'I'm heading back to Principal Liu's boot camp for problem teenagers.
'The kids there have been pulled out of normal school for drinking, 'fighting, smoking and online gaming.
' But does the camp really work? 'I'm joining them on a 43km march 'and staying overnight with them in a truck.
' That van's going to smell.
What, surviving the smell? Where do you use the bathroom? STUDENTS LAUGH It is now! It's clean now, obviously, cos it's empty.
Ow, ow! 'I'm being paired up with my new friend, Chin-Yu, for the march.
'But before we had off, 'she wants to tell me about the events which had her wind up here.
' Oh, it's freezing in here! At your school, were you you know, were you the only one who was going out drinking? What do you think society expects of you, then? Does society expect you not to hang out with a group of guys? Not to go out drinking? What do you think your mum hopes to get out of you being here? Like, what's her ultimate goal in sending you here? "Normal"? Do you think you're a normal teenager? I think you are.
'The dreaded walk begins.
' MILITARY MUSIC PLAYS I think the target for the walk is 42k, but whether or not I'll make that is yet to be .
Snuck my phone in.
STUDENTS CHAN SINGS: Tune! Spending time with Chin-Yu makes me think we're not too different.
- Teach me.
Teach me the song.
- OK.
Do it slowly.
OK, go on.
- Very good, yeah.
THEY SING: CHIN-YU SINGS SLOWLY: BILLIE SINGS: Yes, very good! MILITARY MUSIC PLAYS 'This is that China they don't put in the tourist brochures, 'and it's the result of rapid industrial growth.
' Look, over there! You can't see anything! - Very smoky.
- Yeah.
It's hard to breathe.
I've got this app here that tells you how polluted the air is.
And it's really, really heavy today, here.
It says, "Advice for health.
"Outdoor sports -- not suitable.
"Masks -- necessary.
"Open windows -- not recommended.
Air purifiers -- necessary.
" So it's a great day to be out walking a marathon(!) 'It's halfway through the walk 'and we're being treated to some entertainment.
'Naturally, I want to get involved.
' This is a song by a Scottish group.
It's identical twins, they're called The Proclaimers.
If you don't know them, check them out.
I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more Just to be the one Something, something, something Well, I would walk 500 miles and I would walk I'm whipping out my mask.
It's harder to breathe with this on! 'I'm only walking for one day, and finding that hard enough.
'But everyone else will be marching on for two whole weeks.
'Head teacher Liu sometimes sends the students on hikes for as long 'as three months to encourage team spirit 'and build up their physical strength and confidence.
' Oh! STUDENTS CHAN We've finished! 'Without Chin-Yu, I couldn't have made it.
' We are successful! You! - Up for it! - Up for it.
- Li hai! - Li hai.
Everyone is writing their diaries, which is quite cute.
She's asking me how to spell "beers".
- B-E-E-R - R-S.
- B-E-E-R-S.
She just read her diary out and she's like, "Billie always says 'li hai' and 'pijiu'.
" Yes.
Up for it and beers.
Up for it, beers.
I remember you can drink ten beers.
This is fun.
You're the background on my phone.
'There's one question I still haven't asked Chin-Yu.
' Do you feel like you really learn something from doing activities like this? Grow up? So how are you going to prove that you've grown up? 'Even I'm starting to believe in Principal Liu's methods.
'I'm pretty honoured to receive a marching warrior certificate.
' Xie xie.
When I first met you, I thought that you were really strict, hardline, but actually I think you have a really Oh! .
you have a really special bond with the children.
And it's, you know These kids are so clever.
And I think that they just need some love and you really give that to them.
I thought that I'd be bolting out of here this morning, but I'm really going to miss all of you.
Bye! Bye, see you! Bye-bye.
I hope that you graduate soon.
Oh! - Up for it.
- Up for it! If you finish the walk, when you're 18, I'll get you ten beers.
- Bye-bye.
- Goodbye.
I miss you, too.
Go and join the walk.
Aw She's so funny and intelligent and I just don't It's difficult to know what's gone wrong to lead to lead her to have to be somewhere like this.
Obviously, it's not the worst thing in the world, but she's got a lot of good ideas and I just hope that her mum pulls her out of it soon.
- We chat! - We chat.
Back in Beijing, I couldn't stop thinking about the gaming addicts I met when I was first at the boot camp.
They told me that gaming helps them escape the oppression of daily life.
But what are these guys playing that's making them feel so free? I'm off to an internet cafe to find out.
This guy is gaming as well.
What game is that? League of Legends? HE EXCLAIMS Let me guess Gaming.
What are you playing? League of Legends.
League of Legends whoo! Is League of Legends Everyone is gaming.
Every single person.
One name keeps on cropping up -- League of Legends.
It's an multiplayer battle game, and China's most popular game ever.
Across the country, the gaming habit has exploded and in Shanghai, the centre of the billion-dollar gaming business, you don't just play it alone -- it's a massive spectator sport, too.
I'm at a national League of Legends tournament.
- Hello.
Ni hao.
- Ni hao! '22-year-old Ernie is a huge League of Legends fan.
' - Hello.
- Hello.
- I'm Billie, nice to meet you.
- I'm Ernie.
- Ernie.
- Yes.
What the hell is going on? - OK so, there is the teams.
- Yes.
Which one is yours? OK, on the left, Royal? Yes, Royal.
You could say that online gaming is a bit like football, with player exchanges and huge salaries.
The top pro gamers can earn six-figure sums.
That is Zero -- OK.
'Ernie has her eyes on South Korean player Zero, 'who Royal bought last year to boost their performance.
' What do like so much about Zero? - Have you met before? - Yes.
CHANTING Everyone's going mad.
The fans here are the lucky ones.
Several million viewers are watching the competition live online at home.
The game is about to start.
SOUND EFFECTS AND MUSIC I'm surprised that so many people want to watch something that's so repetitive.
BANGING - Hello.
- Hello.
- Hi, I'm Billie.
- Nice to meet you.
- Lovely to meet you.
How's it going? - It's going good.
'Chal Mao is the official commentator for this match.
' So this should be a room for the teams to rest a bit.
Do you think that there is a sort of dangerous element to how addictive these games are? The problem is that video games do not require a lot of energy to play, right? So that is why young kids get out of control -- they play too much.
But I think that the responsibility lies with the parents and also the kids themselves, just that we have to know when to stop.
Do you think that there is a reason why kids here are so attracted to these, you know, fantasy worlds that they live inside? You don't become a fashionable person by playing games, but between kids, they talk about games -- if all your classmates are talking about the games last night, you will have to watch it.
- Yeah.
- Otherwise, you can't join in.
Who knew that being a computer nerd could earn you cool points in China? 'After the match, I join Ernie in her hunt for Zero.
' What are we doing now? How long are we going to wait? We're going to have to camp out for the gamers.
That girl looks hysterical.
I think she just met someone.
So, I think that's, like, the gamers' tour bus, and one of them just covered his face.
You just don't associate this sort of behaviour with, um gaming culture.
Like, superfandom.
They are sex symbols here.
So, is this it? Go on, get in there! Get in the van, get in the boot.
Shall we chase the van, screaming? You have to get them! Bye I knew that gaming was big in China, but I just wasn't expecting the players to have the sort of star status that they do here, and seeing Ernie being sort of brushed aside as her favourite team left kind of upset me, but just also made me realise what a massive, massive industry it is here, and these gamers are like gods here.
But are they really the gods everyone thinks they are? I've seen how fans are mesmerised by Team Royal and their virtual world.
But I'm about to have a taste of their real world, as they invite me to their shared apartment at the edge of the city.
Ni hao.
Thank you.
Wow These gamers all work and sleep in this one flat.
They even have their own chef and PA, so there's no reason to ever leave.
Wow -- it's pretty intense.
The only focus is on League of Legends.
They are paid to play for eight hours a day and even after they've clocked off, they carry on gaming.
I'm on a mission to meet fan Ernie's favourite player.
Which one? Where is Zero? He's resting.
I met Zero's biggest fan the other day and I feel like she would be crying if she was here.
Are there many female visitors? Do the guys ever have girls over? Um So, can I have a little tour of Chez Royal? Wait oh, my God.
What's this, like, weird boobs thing? Is that yours? It came from the fans? Wow Probably from Ernie -- jeez.
They are all blushing.
- Hello.
- Hello.
- Ni hao.
You, too.
A friend of mine is your biggest fan.
- Mm-hm.
- A girl called Ernie.
She said that she made you a scrapbook - with loads of photos in it.
- Oh.
Ernie is going to be very jealous of me that I am with you right now.
Oh, my God, the front of the book says, "My whole life seems to start and end with you.
" ZERO LAUGHS Oh, it's so Don't laugh at her.
Don't you dare.
- Mm-hm.
- What is that one? - She's Photoshopped you onto a mermaid.
- I don't know.
"Love is total sacrifice.
" Would you say that Ernie is the most notorious fan of the team? I know what we can do.
We can take a photo for Ernie of us with the book.
So, you hold it like that.
I'm getting in it as well.
See, I want my moment.
So, Zhu Jia-Wen has been lumbered with the task of trying to teach me how to play League of Legends.
Zhu Jia-Wen is a huge name on the gaming circuit.
He is world famous and has raked in major prize money.
He got hooked on video games when he was just ten years old.
Shall we start? Oh, cool.
So, do I get to choose who I am? So, which one is me? So, who am I? What do they do? I just walk around? What do I click? Who do I click on? Right-click is walking? OK - Q? - Q.
What? I don't understand what's going on.
I died! How have I just died? So is the whole game just this? Like, is it the same each time? When you started out playing, was it difficult to keep up with your schoolwork? Like, did it distract you from other things? Do you think that there are any downsides to the fact that young people here spend hours in front of the computer? Today was mind-blowing.
I couldn't really believe that those guys spend their entire lives, pretty much, in that one room.
They eat a couple of metres away from their computers and just spend the entire day hunched over them, playing this game.
It's, er, it's certainly a pretty intense way of life and that's what it is here, it's Gaming in China is a way of life.
It's pretty hard to get to the bottom of what China's obsession with gaming really means from the pros.
So I'm going to the top.
I'm off to meet 27-year-old Wong Susong, owner of a large gaming team and a son of China's richest man.
- Hello! - Hello.
- Ni hao.
- Ni hao.
Good evening.
- I'm Billie.
Lovely to meet you.
- Please come in.
- Thanks so much.
- Those are cool shoes.
- Yep, thank you.
I've never seen shoes like that before.
I'm sorry to subject you to my socks that are from a pound shop.
Oh, no, it's fine.
- Wow! This is a nice flat.
- Thank you.
'Susong's father sent him to boarding school and university 'in the UK, 'so he didn't experience the rigid Chinese school system.
' Do you think that part of the reason gaming is so popular here is because people kind of actually enjoy living in the fantasy worlds that they explore in the games more than their lives here that are just, you know, dictated by their parents' expectations and all the pressure of school? It's really the pressure of escaping from the mundane life, the day-to-day life, of really just school and home and just studying all the time.
Is there any way to escape the system here? Well, I think escaping the system would be suicide.
First of all, your parents would probably kill you, yeah, because there is really no way Unless you are extremely confident and extremely stupid, there is really no way of succeeding outside the system.
Being an adult is really knowing who you are, but over here it feels like people tell you who you are.
The state chooses what's mainstream and you have to conform to that.
If your ideals are not mainstream, then you're wrong, but, of course, everyone has their own ideas, so what they do is they put on a mask and they go forward in life with the mask.
Why is online gaming becoming so popular in China? Because once you go online you can take off that mask and say whatever you really think instead of what is mainstream.
Do you think that the lack of freedom here leads to people being unhappy? I think at some point you just accept it.
Do you think That's why you don't see many people protesting in China, I suppose.
You don't see many people protesting in China? Yeah, because they realise some point in time, some point in class, that even by protesting they can't change much.
Shall I come over here and start a gang, start a movement? They could arrest you for that, so it's I mean, in China, where the line is is really quite questionable.
We don't really know where the line is.
The laws are not very explicit.
There is one place in China with an independent legal system and freedom of speech -- Hong Kong.
Hong Kong used to be a British colony, but was handed back to China in 1997.
Since then, Beijing's promised the region would enjoy more political rights than on the mainland, but there are now signs that Beijing wants to manage the political scene here.
Students brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill for two months last year with mass rallies calling for fully free leadership elections.
Alex Chow was one of the student leaders that started the protests.
He was arrested several times during the movement and banned from travelling to mainland China.
- Hello.
- Hello.
- Hi, I'm Billie.
- I'm Alex.
- Nice to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.
- How's it going? - Come in.
Whoa! What is all this stuff? Why do you need a helmet? No?! I mean, were many people seriously hurt during the protests? OK.
- Take this.
- Thank you.
- I want to have a go on one of the megaphones before I leave - OK.
one of the working ones.
Did you have any victory? Was any change brought about as a result of the protest? What are your biggest fears about Beijing exerting its control over Hong Kong? What would happen if you were to protest in mainland China? The authorities blocked any information about the protests leaking to the mainland, fearing it would spark off demonstrations in other big Chinese cities.
The fear of mainland-isation here is pretty obvious, but not everyone in Hong Kong opposes a Beijing rule.
- Hello! - Hi.
- Hi, I'm Billie.
Nice to meet you all.
- I'm Susan.
- Hi, Susan.
- I'm Sunny.
- Nice to meet you.
'Sunny and her friends are young and successful 'and in many ways they live a Western lifestyle here 'but they're still standing behind the Chinese system.
' So where did you stand on all the pro-democracy protests last year? I think there is a big misunderstanding between the local people and the government.
I think they are scared.
I'm going to use the word "scared", because they are scared to be controlled because It's because of the impression they have in their mind about mainland China and about the government, about the political system, you know, the one-party system.
As someone who's been schooled abroad and obviously spent time here in Hong Kong, where maybe there's more freedom in many ways, do you still feel that the way that China governs its country and runs the mainland is the right way to run it? I believe, like, the current political system is It suits China.
Within China, there's not as much discontent with the system as people outside of China believe there is.
I've even told my friends China needs stability.
We need a stable society in order to develop the economy.
The government right now has put China's economy on the right track.
A lot of people are getting more wealthy, living better lives, and I think that's That's the basics, right? Like, that's what the government is supposed to do and I think if that's working at the moment, then there's not much else to ask for right now.
- Shall we order some drinks? - Yeah, sure.
Do you want to have a look? 'After being in China all this time, I'm beginning to understand 'this culture which believes in a stable, ordered society 'where everyone should stay in line.
' But as I walked through the tents of the last remaining protesters, I was reminded of the thousands of people here who want to be different.
All of the people that I've met across China have been so drastically different.
There was the model student, the rebel teenager, and here in Hong Kong, the pro-democracy activists.
The one thing that they've all had in common is that they're proud to be Chinese and, to me, it's so interesting to think about how the people that I've met are really going to shape the future of this rapidly changing country.
Next time -- I'm a single girl in a country obsessed with love and marriage.
CHEERING 'In China, getting married is not a choice but a duty.
'There are more brides here than anywhere else on the planet.
'I'll be finding out why single people 'go to shocking extremes to find somebody' Oh, quite brutal.
and track down the people prepared to go to jail 'for protesting against the pressures to marry young.
' Great times are coming Coming down the boulevard Coming down your avenue I can see it from a bird's-eye view Great times are coming