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April 10, 2013 | posted in Filmmakers
Peter Navarro is an economist and professor at the Paul Merage School of Business. He has written several books on the global economy, specifically the United States- China trade relationship and has appeared as an expert on a number of national news outlets, including CNBC, MSNBC, CNN and 60 Minutes.
Cleveland International Film Festival: How did you become interested in the subject of “Death By China 2.0”?
Peter Navarro: In my other life, I’m a professor who teaches the subject of macroeconomics to MBA students at the University of California-Irvine. Beginning around 2003, I started to notice a marked deterioration in the US economy along with declining job prospects for my students. I began to study the issue, and very quickly, all roads seem to lead to Beijing. The basic problem, as I articulate in the film, is that China simultaneously protects its own markets while engaging in massive cheating to penetrate the markets of its rivals. After writing two books about the subject – The Coming China Wars and Death By China – I sought to reach a much larger audience by making the film.
CIFF: What were the biggest challenges you faced in making this film?
PN: My biggest challenge was getting decent footage out of China. I sent one of the best cameramen in the business along with one of my producers, and they came back with very little that was usable. The biggest problem is that once you try to set down a tripod down on Chinese soil, the secret police are all over you. My guys actually got arrested and were detained and questioned and may have been lucky to get out as they did. It is a police state that would make George Orwell turn over in his grave. Still, I was able to use some of the footage by converting it to freeze-frame, high resolution photos and then using my editing software to give it motion.
CIFF: How should American consumers respond to the economic problems addressed in your film?
PN: In the film, I ask American consumers to look very carefully at the labels of the products they buy. I also urge them to put that product back down if it has a label that says Made In China. As Gordon Chang says in the film: “Yeah, things are cheap at Walmart. But we have to consider the consequences.
Ideally, consumers will not just stop buying Made In China products. They also will urge the managers of the stores that they shop at to begin stocking alternatives to Made In China. As Judith Samuelson says in the film and I think rightly, if consumers stop buying Made In China products, there will be a “shot heard round the world.”
CIFF: This year's theme is "Be The Applause." What aspect of your film do you hope will inspire the applause of CIFF audiences?
PN: I have been told by many people who have viewed the film that it finally puts together all of the pieces of the puzzle with respect to our destructive trade relationship with China. I think the strongest aspect of the film is that it permanently changes the consumer behavior of anybody who watches it. Few documentaries really do that; and I’m very proud that this one does.
--Interview by Bridget Kriner
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