China. Google's out, citing Internet censorship.
China. Four Rio Tinto employees are jailed for "corruption and commercial espionage." The portion of the trial relating to commercial espionage was held in secret.
China. Amnesty International says thousands of people are executed every year. But information on the death penalty is a state secret.
China. McDonald's, with about 1,100 outlets, says it will double that number by the end of 2013.
And then there's the look of the place - as Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has shown us, such is the epic scale of ugliness in the country's embrace of the production of the consumer goods we want that there is almost a surreal beauty to it. In fact, anyone who has seen Burtynsky's work or Jennifer Baichwal's documentary about that work, Manufactured Landscapes, has seen China distilled, epitomized as the disquieting, flabbergasting entity it is today.
That's where I.M. Pei comes in. American Masters: I.M. Pei: Building China Modern (PBS, 9 p.m.) is a fascinating documentary about the Chinese-born and -raised Pei, perhaps the world's most distinguished architect, and his design and construction of the Suzhou Museum. Full of subtle, revealing moments about the central tensions in China, the program is a way into the country's perplexing present.
At first, Pei comes across as utterly benign, a wise old man in his 90s who has seen it all. He describes and then shrugs off the controversy over his spectacular glass-pyramid addition to the Louvre in Paris. In that case, part of the backlash was anchored in the idea of a foreigner being involved in the redesign of a French national structure. In the case of the Suzhou Museum, it was a matter of a prodigal son returning home.
Eventually Pei emerges as a wily, part super-salesman and part decisive politician who uses his status to impose his will on Chinese officials. They're tough, but he's tougher. Besides, they're not sure what to make of him - is he truly Chinese or someone who abandoned the country so long ago that he doesn't count as Chinese?
At its core, though, the program is about the tension between modernity and tradition. It's what Pei's career is rooted in and it's a subject that spooks China. We see the architect's first visit to the museum site in 2002, when he takes in the neighbourhood and argues quietly against the demolition of homes and the displacement of people to accommodate the construction. He doesn't get his way and, tellingly, while we hear from many people who praise Pei's decades of innovation, we never hear from those who oppose the museum.
The finished building is splendidly elegant, a rebuke to the "bad modernism" of Chinese architecture. But it's the journey there that makes this program worth your while. It's a journey on which you must listen to the asides and look out for the quiet gestures. That's where the truth about China resides.
Dive Detectives (History, 6 p.m., 11 p.m.) is a new series that arrives with a lot of attention. This first episode Wednesday has already made headlines - it's an investigation into the mystery surrounding the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Gordon Lightfoot, as you may have heard, has agreed to change the lyrics to his iconic song in order to reflect what is revealed here.
The series is good pop history and science. Father and son professional divers Mike and Warren Fletcher are the stars, using their underwater expertise to solve the mysteries of recent history and demolish some myths. History describes it as "a dramatic, action-packed series that features real people and real-life missions unfolding in gripping actuality." This is a long-winded way of saying it is, often, a gripping show. Not only do we get the underwater action and footage, but the story or mystery is also deftly connected to the present and living people. Wednesday's program uses contemporary science to ask if the phenomenon of "rogue waves" might be responsible for the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Check local listings.
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Beasts of the Bible (Vision, 9 p.m.) suggests, among other things, that the biblical serpent-with-legs thing may have been a salamander. A funky and rather fun light-science doc that blends archeology research and the work of cryptozoologists, it ponders the authenticity of Leviathan, the Behemoth and other biblical monsters. The scientists interviewed are amazingly enthusiastic and cheerful. The critters are scary.
Republic of Doyle (CBC, 9 p.m.) has a very slight storyline tonight. CBC says, "Jake and Mal are pulled into a family favour case when Walter's soon-to-be brother-in-law suddenly disappears on the day of his wedding." But that doesn't do it justice. There's a lot of silliness about a horse. Meanwhile, one of the show's strengths comes through - it can be a great vehicle for Newfoundland actors to embrace the material with gusto. The best part of tonight's episode is a bit of business built around a wedding, and Dana Puddicombe, as the mischievous, excitable bride, is wonderful. J.D.