China Inside Out: Bob Woodruff Reports

China Inside Out, a documentary reported by ABC News’ Bob Woodruff, explores the stunning global transformation that is taking place at the outset of what is already being called “The Chinese Century.” While much of American foreign policy has been focused on the Global War on Terror, China has been shaking hands and making deals all around the world. In this hour-long documentary, Woodruff examines four of those relationships to discover how China’s rise is impacting all of us.

As the world gathers in Beijing for the Summer Olympics, China is brimming with massive new wealth and exploding expectations. In just 30 years, more than 600 million people have been lifted out of poverty. But China has more than 1.3 billion people – and doesn’t have nearly enough resources to sustain them. Its leaders know that their survival depends on meeting the growing needs and desires of a changing and expectant people. So, after 300 years of relative isolation, China is reaching out to – and into – the rest of the world.

China Inside Out offers a unique and absorbing view of the world as the new China sees it. From China itself, and across three continents including our own, the documentary explores how China is using its growing wealth, power and influence, and reveals both the opportunities and the challenges of this extraordinary reordering of the world.

China Inside Out: Bob Woodruff Reports first aired August 6, 2008 on ABC.


China Inside Out also marks Woodruff’s return to the country where his career as a journalist began. In 1989, when the uprising in Tiananmen Square occurred, he was an attorney living in Beijing and teaching law to Chinese students. He quickly signed on as a translator for the American networks – a decision that would change his life forever. “When the uprising happened, I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” Woodruff says. “I was suddenly addicted to being a journalist.”

In addition to China, Woodruff, who speaks Mandarin, reports from Angola, Brazil, Cambodia and the United States.

In Angola, he looks at one example of what China is doing and America is not doing around the world. China’s relationship with Angola emerged in the aftermath of a brutal civil war. The Chinese government seized an opening left by the United States and other Western governments who refused aid without a commitment from Angola toward greater transparency. China today is lending Angola billions of dollars to build sorely needed infrastructure in exchange for 70% of the contracts, and millions of barrels of oil – a vital resource in short supply within China’s own borders.

In Brazil, Woodruff reports from the soy fields of Mato Grosso. The soaring price of food is becoming a world crisis that affects all of us. In the last two years the price of soy has more than doubled, one result of the growing demands of China’s burgeoning population. China is home to 20% of the world’s people but has only 10% of the world’s arable land — and that land is being lost to urbanization, industrialization and the devastating environmental side effects of both. This crisis for China is an opportunity for Brazil – and a challenge.

In Cambodia, Woodruff looks at China’s determination to strengthen ties with its neighbors. To keep its economy growing, China knows it needs peace and stability in the region. While many South East Asian nations used to look to the United States as their ticket to prosperity, much of the region now views China as the key to wealth. Until 15 years ago, China supported the Khmer Rouge, which was responsible for the death of nearly two million Cambodians. Today China is using its new wealth to help Cambodia recover and win its allegiance.

In the United States, Woodruff investigates China’s “most important bilateral relationship,” according to their ambassador to the UN. China’s economy is built on exports and the United States is its best customer. The United States is now also dependent on China. The Chinese are funding nearly a trillion of U.S. debt and investing billions more in U.S. companies. The success of the Chinese-American relationship is critical not only for these two countries, but also for the world.


“Network documentaries about global economics are about as common as existential seminars on “The View.” But [China Inside Out] is a model of clarity and insight, a compelling primer on how changes in China are reverberating throughout the rest of the world, and why this industrious revolution must not be underestimated.”

The Washington Post – Tom Shales

“China Inside Out is one of those skillfully wrought documentaries that squeeze a hefty amount of information into less than an hour…while simultaneously tantalizing the viewer with images from around the globe.”

The New York Sun

“Not too many pretty pictures, no paranoia, just a clear-eyed assessment of China’s place in an increasingly interdependent world.”

Philadelphia Daily News

“[Woodruff] brings no hysteria to the subject, while he explains clearly and concisely what the issues are.”


“Woodruff delivers a sharp if by necessity once-over-lightly look at how intricately woven the Chinese and U.S. economies have become.”




Producer and Director, Gabrielle Tenenbaum

Associate Producer, Susan Schaefer

Director of Photography, Ben McCoy

Editors, Emily Williams and Peter R. Livingston Jr.

Production Associate, Mark Kachelries

Graphics, Victoria Nece

Music, Ben Decter

Sound Recordist, Carl Franson

Supervising Producer, Christina Lowery

Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings

Executive Producer, Tom Yellin