Win in China: Embracing Creative Entrepreneurism

L to R: Ole Schell, James Fallows, and Orville Schell discuss the growing class of entrepreneurs in China. (Ariana Rabindranath)

WASHINGTON, December 2, 2009 – Asia Society Washington Center hosted a screening of Win in China, a documentary about the largest televised business competition in the world. The film provides an inside look at Chinese business culture and weaves in behind-the-scenes footage of the television show, also named Win in China.

It incorporates interviews with the judges, contestants and China experts James Fallows, National Correspondent for the Atlantic Monthly and Orville Schell, Asia Society’s Director of U.S.-China Relations. After the screening, filmmaker Ole Schell joined Orville Schell and James Fallows to discuss the film, their impressions, and broader themes related to the rise of China’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The discussion focused on the film’s production, business and change in China, and the potential implications for the United States. One salient point was the discernible "hunger" for success prevalent among many Chinese that, some argue, is declining in the United States. There is a push to achieve "the Chinese Dream" and realize one’s full potential, an entrepreneurial spirit that characterized early and mid-20th century America.

The panelists argued that the infrastructure of China’s landscape is also dramatically evolving while the United States is perceived to be in a state of deterioration. In the documentary, one scene shows a bridge in Beijing that is literally destroyed and rebuilt within the day.

But underneath the positive message of the television show are several dark and complex truths. Environmental destruction, corruption, and a lack of transparency are still major forces in China. It is hard to play by the rules when those rules are still unclear.

The nationally-televised show featured 108 initial contestants chosen from 120,000 applications. Contestants competed for million to be distributed amongst the top five winners, with the frontrunner earning $1.5 million to invest in their own enterprise. The competition was judged by five of China’s leading businesspeople including Jack Ma, Chairman of Yahoo China and the Founder of China’s eBay equivalent, Alibaba.

The show not only entertains audiences with the thrill of fast-paced capitalist competition, but also educates and galvanizes the audience by encouraging entrepreneurial fervor. Every criticism, lesson, and competition is a nugget of advice for the ardent observer. Win in China is transforming China’s value system by encouraging individualism through entrepreneurism.

The event was co-hosted with Sidwell Friends School.

Reported by Aditya Banerjee, Asia Society Washington Center

Related link:
Win in China website