A closer look ...
And it's not all sugar and spice ...
The New Silk Road, Part 1: From China to Pakistan | DW Documentary
The New Silk Road is a mammoth project intended to connect China with the West. It's a gigantic infrastructure project that Beijing says will benefit everyone. But this two-part documentary shows China’s predominant self-interest and geopolitical ambitions.
The old Silk Road is a legend, whereas the New Silk Road is a real megaproject. China wants to reconnect the world though a network of roads, railways, ports and airports between Asia and Europe. A team of reporters travels by sea and land along the New Silk Road and shows how China, with the largest investment program in history, is expanding its influence worldwide. Their journey begins in Shenzhen on the Pearl River Delta. This is where China's legendary rise to an economic superpower began 40 years ago. The private market economy experiment unleashed forces that allowed Shenzhen to grow into a mega-metropolis.
The team takes a container ship towards Southeast Asia. Its first stop is the port city of Sihanoukville in Cambodia. A joke is making the rounds there these days: you can now travel to China without a passport and without leaving your own country. Sihanoukville is now almost part of China itself! The Chinese have financed practically everything built here in the recent past: the extension of the port, new roads, bridges and factories. Many Cambodians are unhappy and feel like losers in the boom. Rising prices and rents are making the poor even poorer. But for land and house owners, on the other hand, it’s a bonanza.
In Myanmar, resistance is already growing. Locals in Kachin have successfully blocked a new dam project, asking how the Chinese could produce energy for their own country whilst leaving the locals themselves without electricity? The Myanmar government pulled the emergency brake and the huge Chinese dam project did not get beyond the first concrete piers in the river.
The Karakorum Highway from Kashgar in China across the Roof of the World to Islamabad in Pakistan is one of the most difficult and dangerous roads in this breathtaking mountain world. Once the road is finished, it often disintegrates again, and rock falls and landslides block the highway as if the Karakorum Mountains are trying to deny China strategic access to the Arabian Sea. The first part of the report ends in Islamabad.
The New Silk Road, part 2: From Kyrgyzstan to Duisburg
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.