The New Silk Road is a mammoth project meant to connect China with the West. It’s a gigantic infrastructure project that Beijing says will benefit all. But this two-part documentary shows another side: of China’s self-interest and geopolitical ambitions.
China’s path to global power leads through the legendary trade road. Our authors travel west on two separate paths: One team follows the sea route, along which China is expanding its support bases, while the other follows the ancient Silk Road through Central Asia. Their journey takes them through stunning landscapes and to magical places with ancient caravanserais, where the lore of the old Silk Road lives on. At the same time, they observe China’s overwhelming new influence in immense construction sites and shipping hubs. People everywhere are hoping the new trade will bring them and their children work and prosperity, just as the old Silk Road did hundreds of years ago. But others fear that a future dominated by China will bring them no good at all. “Clean water, the mountains and nature are much more important than the money they give us,” the filmmakers learn in Kyrgyzstan. Chinese investment has not only bestowed the country with better roads, power lines and railway lines, but also with environmental pollution, corruption and crippling debt. Oman is another stop on the line, where Beijing has taken over large parts of a new Special Economic Zone in the desert city of Duqm. You can still see traditional Arab dhows in the old harbor at Sur, but they no longer have a place in today’s international trade. Instead, the horizon is dotted with huge container ships, many of them flying the Chinese flag. Meanwhile, the French port city of Marseille is aiming to become the New Silk Road’s European bridgehead. A small container village in the hills above the city is the first step. Cheap textiles from the Far East are delivered here to the “Marseille International Fashion Center”. MIF 68 for short – 68 is considered a lucky number in China – is geared towards distributing China’s products throughout Europe. The two-part documentary shows the breathtaking dimensions of this gigantic project – one where, it would seem, no stone will be left unturned.
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