Video: China’s Electric Revolution

As someone who’s lived in China for nearly four years, one of the things I find most interesting about this country, and specifically Chengdu, is the presence and sheer number of ebikes (electric scooters) that are in use here. Especially in Chengdu, ebikes influence so many aspects of daily routines, for both Chinese and foreigners.

Over the past few year, my friend Harry Bateman and I have been working on this short documentary about Ebikes in Chengdu called “China’s Electric Revolution”. It’s below, hosted on Youtube.

Click here to view China’s Electric Revolution on Youtube

Our goal with this video was twofold. First, we simply wanted to show how ebikes are such a vital part of daily life for Chengdu families and businesses, and how a certain culture has developed as a result of this reliance on ebikes. Secondly, on a more humorous note, we wanted to show how it’s possible to basically spend an entire day without getting off one’s ebike. To do this, we rode an ebike to some pretty ridiculous places around Chengdu and participated in some typical Chengdu activities.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this video, and ebikes in China. Please remember, also, that while we call this a “documentary”, the title is tongue in cheek. This is not what your average person does on their ebike during the course of a day.

12 thoughts on “Video: China’s Electric Revolution”

  1. As someone who’s lived in China for nearly four years

    Great…go on…surely you’ve figured out how things are by now…

    It’s below, hosted on Youtube.

    *facepalm* Youtube is blocked in China. You really don’t know this? Where is it hosted on youku, or sina, or any of the other sites?

    while we call this a “documentary”, the title is tongue in cheek.

    So it’s a documentary but not a documentary. So why did you call it a documentary? I’m going to throw this out there…but hipsters, amirite? *sigh*


      There’s the youku link for ya. And the only part of the video that I would say isn’t completely factual is the part at the end where we ride the bike into all those different places. The point was that while you can ride into all those places, people don’t normally do this. We were just trying to have a bit of fun with that part while showing that you can take an ebike more places than you’d think

    • We know that Youtube is blocked, but considering the pros and cons decided that Youtube was the best option for embedded video. Feel free to disagree. Get a VPN, if you don’t have one already. There is a link for one above in the sidebar.

  2. Not bad Deven, but when you said “10 years ago, there were no e-bikes in China” I had to wipe coffee off my table, there were tons of e-bikes in Chengdu a decade ago.. I had one. It’s also amusing (in a negative way) that, when talking about dangers and stress of riding e-bikes in China, the solution is to ‘drink and drive’ ie. exacerbate the problem by grabbing a beer on the bike. I also hope you don’t do the ‘take e-bike everywhere’ shit on a daily basis, the reason you haven’t seen an e-bike on the top of the poly center is because people generally aren’t douchey enough to drive their e-bikes into elevators and into hospitals.. especially busy elevators.

    That being said, it seems like a reasonably well done project, congratulations on completing it!

    (also….. that music. Man, that music.)

    • Thanks for your comment. And yeah with the 10 years ago part I got that rough timetable from some of the (limited) resources I found online for this topic. So honestly it’s nice to hear from someone who was here 10 years ago and actually can confirm this. But I’m guessing 10 years ago there were way less bikes and 15 years ago or so probably none.

      I think one issue with this video is that we originally planned it as two parts, one part legit factual documentary and the second part a bit more farcical and humorous. But in the end we just combined them. So yeah i agree about those things not being daily occurrences, however I see a good amount of people taking bikes into elevators. We mainly did that stuff to get a few laughs and show that however annoying it can be, these bikes are pretty convenient and can be taken a lot of places.

      As for the music, my buddy Stephen Scott did all of it and hopefully he’ll be doing more for any future videos. Thanks again man!

  3. My favorite part of the movie was at about :35 to :40 seconds where that retard in the white car tries to drive directly into a grey sedan. Then a voice chimes in, saying “There’s a revolution happening in China.” hahahahahaha. What revolution? Idiots with motorized vehicles? Then there’s some weirdo who drives an e-bike into hospitals, coffee shops and elevators. WTF? Walk much?

    • Hey, I’m that weirdo! You don’t see me criticizing you’re goat/boy Centaurian proclivities, do ya? Let me ride my ebike where I please without this vitriol…

      P.S. Walking is for plebeians

  4. It’s cool little doco but as was mentioned e-bikes have been around for a long time here. I dont use one but I think they’re a fantastic urban transportation option. Instead of a car a hi-end e-bike is absolutely a better option for getting around. But it won’t impress your friends or neighbors so…….

  5. I’ll preface this by saying, though this may seem harsh, I offer this advice because there were glimpses of potential here. This short-doc, while I really didn’t like it, did prove that you’ve got some good ideas and skills to make good video content. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to direct those skills. But, if I can offer some criticism first….

    It seems like you had two distinct ideas that turned into a single movie: to make a documentary about e-bikes, and to film a softcore Jackass-type film where you push the limits of what’s publicly acceptable. The question is do the two belong together?

    My feeling is: no. The result is a product that is misleading in its packaging as a “documentary.” It seems, at first, that you’re aiming to teach and inform based on your experience and research, but you end up only offering pretty basic and sometimes incorrect information, as other commenters have pointed out. And lines like “China, if you didn’t know, is a pretty big country” is hardly the kind of insight people watch a documentary for. Perhaps the line was intended as a joke, but you blur the lines when it’s nested along with supposed “informational” content, so it loses whatever comic appeal it might have had.

    The most “documentary” quality of the whole movie – the interviews – you actually end up voicing over! Why?! You go to the trouble to do the interview, why give us the tl’dr instead of going ahead and translating? Let the people speak for themselves. I think your documentary will gain more authority the less you editorialize.

    Which brings me to my final point… remove yourself a little bit from the documentary. Let your shots – of which you’ve got some great ones! – speak for themselves. When I watch a documentary, I’m less interested in the person responsible for the film than the contents. There are some character-driven documentaries, sure, but that’s a basic question you need to ask at the very beginning of the filming: do I enrich this film by being in it more or less? As it stands, this would be better titled “Dev’s E-Bike Hijinks”.

    I’ve got more thoughts, but I’ll leave it there. A lot of these comments are assuming you were trying to film a documentary because, well, you called it one. I don’t think you get off the hook by saying it’s “tongue in cheek”. I think it’s just got to be more deliberate: are we watching a hidden camera show or a documentary?

    Like I said above, there are some great shots and ideas. Keep on making stuff and working out the kinks.

    • Thanks for your comment dude. So first off, we originally planned it as two videos. One showing the “real” aspects of ebikes in Chengdu, and the other being a more exaggerated take on the idea that you can take an ebike anywhere (which we were having trouble showing just by filming other people to be honest). So I think your points there are totally valid. As for the interviews, the main reason we cut a lot of them was either because of time, or people weren’t giving honest answers about ebike-related things, and therefore it didn’t seem to add much to the vid. But this was our first project together, and we’re currently working on some others so hopefully they’ll just continue to improve. I’ll openly admit I would do a lot of things differently if we could do this one again. Thanks again though

  6. I loved the “take-your-Ebike-everywhere” bit. The part in front of the shop, where you would expect that person getting all uptight and angry about it, instead he even helps him to move the bike over the door sill.
    His point was obviously not to encourage this behavior, but just to show how “relaxed” China can be, I for one am really embracing this fact.


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