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Top 12 Best Documentaries About China

Chinese cinema is often secretive and censored, making it difficult to learn about the state of the nation.

However, there are 12 documentaries that provide insight into recent social and economic changes.

1. China Love

The film looks at the changing attitudes to love and marriage in China and how the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s affected people’s ability to marry.

There are different expectations of love and marriage between rich and poor in China.

You will see how family structure is important in China and how parents have a say in who their children marry.

Where to watch?

Available: Various streaming services

2. American Factory

This Obama-backed China documentary on Netflix follows Fuyao Glass reopening a shuttered factory in Ohio.

You get to hear perspectives from both the Chinese and the Americans.

The documentary focuses on the differences between the United States and China, in terms of culture, work, relationships, behaviors, and attitudes.

It includes perspectives from both Chinese and American people, and does not take sides on who is right or wrong.

The funny moment comes when one of the Chinese managers reports to the big boss that Americans are slow and have “fat fingers”.

American Factory recently won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

Where to watch?

Available: Netflix

3. Angel Of Nanjing

This documentary explores suicide and mental health issues in China, and specifically how a volunteer stops people from jumping off the infamous Yangtze River Bridge.

Chen Si, the volunteer, is a heavy drinker and smoker, and is unconventional in his methods.

The viewer cannot help but admire him for his dedication.

The best part of the documentary is when Chen Si passes a cigarette to his dying grandma, lights it in her mouth, and tells her to take care of herself.

Where to watch?

Available: Amazon Prime

4. Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School

In a unique experiment, five teachers from China take over the education of fifty teenagers in a Hampshire school in the UK to see whether the high-ranking Chinese education system can teach British a lesson.

The documentary provides an insight into the Chinese education system and how it differs from the British system.

It also raises questions about whether the British education system is too soft and whether children in Britain could benefit from a more disciplined and challenging school environment.

Where to watch?

View from here

5.The Chinese Mayor

The mayor of Datong in China, Yanbo Geng, is passionate about restoring and reconstructing the city’s monumental wall.

He is convinced that once the gigantic project is complete, tourists will flock to the city, ensuring its economic future.

However, the project has forced nearly half a million residents to move.

Director Hao Zhou follows the mayor over a period of two years as he tries to balance public interest and a sense of justice for individuals.

This is not easy, as many of the residents are living illegally and do not have proper housing.

Where to watch?

Available: Amazon Prime

6.Please Remember Me

Former school principal 88-year-old Lou has had Alzheimer’s for the last 10 years.

She now recognizes almost no one except for her husband Feng. Nonetheless, they live a full and happy life in Shanghai.

They practice Thai Chi every morning, make regular visits to the Peking opera and read poetry to one another.

But when Feng himself gets sick, he decides it’s time for them to move into a retirement home.

They have almost no one else to care for them; their only son lives in Australia and visits sporadically.

The transition from hectic city to rural rest home takes a heavy toll on them both.

As an old Chinese saying goes, “Hold his hand to grow old together.” 

Please Remember Me perfectly encapsulates these words.

Where to watch?

View from here

7. Trapped In The City Of A Thousand Mountains

In Chongqing, one of China’s biggest cities, surveillance is unavoidable—there are CCTV cameras everywhere.

It’s not exactly the most stimulating environment for young people looking for something more than just collectivist slogans.

They express their artistic resistance against the lack of freedom in their tattoos and underground hip hop.

In 20 minutes, David Verbeek guides the viewer through the Chongqing night, offering an atmospheric and rhythmic inside view of a lively subculture.

“I just want to write about my own feelings,” says one of our rapper protagonists. “That’s all that matters to me.”

Where to watch?

View from here

8. Twenty Two 22

Twenty Two is a powerful and heart-wrenching Chinese documentary that follows the stories of 22 Chinese women who were forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese during World War II.

These so-called “comfort women” were kidnapped or lured from their homes with the promise of good jobs, only to be imprisoned in horrific conditions and raped repeatedly by Japanese soldiers.

Twenty Two highlights the immense suffering of these women and the incredible strength they have shown in overcoming such unimaginable trauma.

Where to watch?

View from here

9. Web Junkie

Web Junkies is a 2016 documentary film directed by Hila Goldstein and Hilla Medalia.

The film explores the phenomenon of internet addiction among teenagers and young adults in China, where “internet addiction treatment” centers have been established to help those addicted to the internet.

The film follows the stories of three teenagers who are sent to one of these treatment centers, as they struggle to overcome their addiction and return to a normal life.

Where to watch?

View from here

10. China’s Van Goghs

In the documentary China’s Van Goghs, director Xi Yang follows a group of self-taught painters in the small village of Dafen, China who make a living painting copies of Van Gogh’s works.

The film offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of these painters, who work in a factory-like setting and are able to produce a painting in a matter of hours.

While the paintings they create are not always of the highest quality, the speed and efficiency with which they work is remarkable.

China’s Van Goghs is a fascinating look at the world of Chinese art and the people who create it.

Where to watch?

Available: Link

11.Shen Zhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware

The center of the technology world may not lie in California’s Silicon Valley, but in the bustling marketplace of Huaqiangbei, a subdistrict of Shenzhen in China.

This is where curious consumers and industry insiders gather to feast their eyes and wallets on the latest software, hardware, gadgetry, and assorted electronic goods.

It’s also the setting for the new documentary from WIRED UK titled Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware.

Where to watch?


12. 11 out 1.3 Billions: Football in China

How is it possible that a country with 1.3 billion people, and almost as many football fans, can’t get their act together and play football on world level?

How does Chinese culture and politics affect the game?

You will probably find the answers through this documentary.

Where to watch:

Available: Link


Whether you want to learn more about China before you visit, or you’re just curious about the country, these documentaries are all worth watching.

They will make you smile, cry or even question about your own beliefs.

But no matter what, let me know how you feel in the comment section below and if any good ones you watched but I missed here. Drop me a message!

Frequently Asked Questions: (FAQ)

What is the ascension documentary about?

It’s about exploring the possibility of pursing Chinese dream in modern society.

Is American Factory based on a true story?

Yes, it is.

Is Fuyao Glass America still in business?

In 2021, the company became the largest automotive glass supplier in America.

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