In 1985, three ambitious college students meet in Beijing. Meng Xiaojun, Wang Yang, and Cheng Dongqing come from different backgrounds, but they all pin their fortunes on getting student visas for the United States. Only Xiaojun is successful. However, lacking perfect English, he is forced to support his study at Columbia University with debasing part-time jobs. Meanwhile, Yang and Dongqing keep working in Beijing, determined to develop the idea the trio hatched together: a new system for teaching English to the tens of millions of Chinese eager for the advantages fluency brings.
Directed by Hong Kong veteran Peter Chan and shot by Christopher Doyle, with a vitality equal to its characters' motivation, AMERICAN DREAMS IN CHINA is truly a film of the moment. Framed by a lawsuit that sees these three entrepreneurs charged with copyright infringement, it shows how business success can trample on interpersonal relationships. The story of these 21st century billionaires is as seductive and compelling for Chinese viewers as THE SOCIAL NETWORK was for Americans. To watch AMERICAN DREAMS IN CHINA in a North American context is to gain insight into just how emotional the triumph of China's global success can be.