Power In the Pacific reviews


Japan on the Rise, Partly by Accident

Walter Goodman | October 16, 1990

”Power in the Pacific” is an uncommonly sophisticated documentary about America’s role, not always clearly planned out, in creating a new center of power in the Far East. The locus, of course, is Japan, and this four-part series tells of the calculations and miscalculations that brought that country from devastation to prosperity in a few decades, and its impact on the Pacific Basin and the world.

”Dreams of China,” the first episode, tonight at 10 on Channels 13 and 49, recounts how Americans’ fascination with that vast land and fondness for its people turned into fear when the Communists took over after World War II. One of the cautionary points here is the extent to which domestic politics, in particular the soft-on-Communism charges of the late 1940’s and early 50’s, impeded Washington’s ability to deal coolly with the victory of the Communists in China’s civil war. Among the former officials telling the story are John Paton Davies and John Stewart Service, who were drummed out of the State Department because they predicted the defeat of Chiang Kai-shek and recommended an opening to the left. Washington insiders like George Ball and Clark Clifford recall how close the United States came to using nuclear weapons against China after Chiang fled to Taiwan. Newsreels bring back not only the events and emotions of the time but also the jingoistic spirit in which they were reported. Looked at today, the newsreels come across as flat-out propaganda. Whatever the failings of television news, it is rarely so unskeptical of the official line.


The growing influence of Japan dominates this report on economic developments in Pacific Rim countries.

Diane Haitmann | October 16, 1990

According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, the majority of Americans fear he economic power of Japan more than the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

The rapid shift in economic might between the United States and Japan is just one of many relatively new developments among Pacific Rim countries detailed in “Power in the Pacific,” a four-part series which begins tonight at 10 p.m. on PBS station KCET Channel 28.

“It’s one thing to buy products from a certain region of the world; it’s another thing when (the Japanese) start becoming your bankers, and your landowners–your landlords,” said Blaine Baggett, KCET’s director of national public affairs and American executive producer of the series, a co-production of KCET and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “And that’s what’s happening, particularly in California.

“The United States is afraid of this awesome power that Japan has, and what they will do with it,” Baggett added. “Because we don’t know–we really don’t know.”

Joseph Angier, American producer of the series, said the programs will track the postwar military and economic factors which led to the new and uneasy relationship of Japan and the U.S., as well as their effect on less powerful countries of the Pacific.

“The United States’ trade deficit is being financed by Japan–Japan has become the U.S.’ banker,” Angier said. “The health of the U.S. economy is very much dependent on (such factors as) the price of Tokyo real estate.

” ‘Why should I care whether my mortgage is with the Bank of Tokyo or Chase Manhattan?’ Yeah, you might not care. But you should know that your interest rate is being decided in Tokyo, and not in New York.”

The series, completed in May, does not document Japan’s most recent economic woes. Since the beginning of the year, the Tokyo stock market has experienced a steep decline for the first time in five years.

Angier said that, while the series does not figure Japan’s new financial troubles into the global equation, what has happened since the programs were completed only serves to prove their point. “It doesn’t invalidate anything (in the series),” he said. “It shows that the American economy is vulnerable, and we’ll see higher interest rates in the United States because of what’s happening in Japan.

“Their own stock market is hurting, and we, by extension, are hurting. Now that they are not there with their checkbooks at the ready, we have to face up to the fact that we have to put our own house in order.”

Tonight’s installment, “Dreams of China,” examines the way the United States’ changed relationship with China–as an ally in the first half of the century, and as an enemy following the Communist revolution–led two former bitter enemies, the U.S. and Japan, to join forces against Communism.

The second episode, “Japan Comes First,” airing Oct. 23, studies Japan’s economic rise and its effect on the rest of the countries of the Pacific. The third program, “The Nuclear Northwest,” invites political and military leaders to discuss reasons why countries in the Pacific region have to this date failed to reach a state of disarmament.


13 PBS Stations Look West in Forging New Programming Ties

June 03, 1989| Judith Michaelson

Without a lot of fanfare, 13 major public television stations in the United States have banded together into a Pacific Rim Co-Production Assn., with non-commercial TV networks in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The venture is designed to stimulate cooperative programming among the four nations and already has two series in production.

The two Pacific Rim projects now in production:

–“Power in the Pacific.” Australian Broadcasting is the senior partner, with KCET as the U.S. co-producer, in a $1.5 million, four-part documentary about the shifting balance of military and economic power among Pacific Rim nations. “Power” will air on PBS in the fall of 1990.

–“Fire on the Rim.” KCTS in Seattle is the senior partner, working with Television New Zealand, in a four-part series exploring how the common threat of seismic and volcanic disasters, from earthquakes to tsunamis, affect the people and cultures of the Pacific.

Phylis Geller, KCET’s vice president for national productions and the U.S. programming representative for Pacific Rim, said that the member nations decide on projects by majority vote. A KCET-proposed project on 20th-Century efforts toward world peace, including the League of Nations, the United Nations and country-to-country diplomacy, had been turned down, Geller disclosed.

Asked what the subject had to do with the Pacific Rim, she said with a laugh: “That was the problem. In the process we’re learning that projects have to be more focused on the Pacific Rim.”

The co-productions themselves also necessitate negotiation. Originally “Power in the Pacific” had been conceived by the Australians as a look at the post-World War II relations between the two Pacific Rim superpowers–Japan and the United States. But Blaine Baggett, KCET’s director of national public affairs and the U.S. executive producer on the project, said he successfully argued that the concept should go beyond the two nations and focus on all the Pacific powers, including the Soviet Union, China and ANZUS–the alliance between Australia, New Zealand and the United States

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