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Malcolm Clarke, a British director and two-time Academy Award winner, shared his views on how Chinas pursuit of xiaokang, or moderate prosperity, has changed peoples lives with Beijing Review reporter Li Nan. Xiaokang is a goal the government first proposed in the late 1970s and has recently been accomplished.

Clarkes new documentary A Long Cherished Dream, which features ordinary Chinese people, premiered in Beijing on July 13 (See P.46 for more information). This is an edited excerpt of his views:

The best government initiatives are the ones that have real lasting impact on peoples lives, changing peoples lives for the better. And xiaokang is definitely doing that.

When I came to China in the 1980s, I was shocked by how poor great areas of the country were. It was actually quite difficult to find places outside major cities where people were living a comfortable life. Now its more difficult than ever to find extreme poverty in China.

This is a country that feeds 1.4 billion people every day. Some people dont have a lot to eat, but theyre not going to die of starvation. China now has great education even in the most distant parts of the country. Its a remarkable achievement and China is to be commended. Its getting better every year at a rate that is staggering. I have a huge admiration for the achievement.

What we were trying to do was to show a little bit of what xiaokang had achieved. We tried very hard to put a human face on what is, in essence, a government initiative. We tried by just taking snapshots of four different peoples lives at different stages of development to show how this initiative had changed peoples lives for the better.

It was very difficult to make the selection of who our characters would be because we wanted them to be very different to each other. And we wanted to show a range of what xiaokang meant, so that people in the West could really understand what it is.

The reason we chose them is because they were willing to be emotionally honest. We were not particularly gentle with them. Some of the questions we asked were quite searching and quite emotionally difficult for them to answer. But they were all very kind to us and opened their lives. They talk about their lives, loves, hopes, dreams, and importantly, their failures and shortcomings. Its very unusual in China because what I see in the Chinese media are only success stories. But we all make mistakes. We all fail.

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