China's New Silk Road Our World


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China's New Silk Road

The BBC's China editor, Carrie Gracie, has travelled from the east of China to the west of Europe, to hear from people who live along the route of China's new Silk Road.


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Now on BBC News, Our World.

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China calls it the project of the century.

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As the West steps back from global leadership,

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this is China stepping forward - remaking the map of the global

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economy.

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With no other country offering a big idea right now,

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this is the most ambitious bid to shape our century.

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TRANSLATION: I'm under a lot of pressure.

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A massive roll-out of infrastructure built by China.

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To drive trade across more than 60 countries.

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TRANSLATION: It's like a promised land.

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China's President claims it's a win-win for all.

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TRANSLATION: We will not resort to outdated geopolitical manoeuvring.

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Critics say the only winner will be China.

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TRANSLATION: The Chinese have done nothing.

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I'm setting out on a 7,000-mile journey to meet the people

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of the New Silk Road, to understand how it

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will change their lives and our world.

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They call them the ships of the desert.

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For centuries, the camel trains of the Silk Road dominated trade

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between China and the West.

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Now, China wants to build a new Silk Road.

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China's Belt and Road vision is so vast, it may be decades before

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we can tell whether it's a worthy successor to the ancient Silk Road.

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But what we can say is that, with no other country offering a big

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idea right now, this is the most

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ambitious bid to shape our century.

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It's not camels this time...

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These containers full of Chinese goods are going by train.

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China's grand plan is to build roads, rails, container ports,

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all the way across Asia and into Europe.

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It's hoping to wrap more than 60 countries in its embrace.

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Now, that is a massive new sphere of influence.

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Yiwu is the starting point for the train to Europe.

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Famous as the town that makes Christmas, and probably

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many of the things in your home.

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Oh, my gosh.

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That's quite a weird feeling.

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China ones sold silk, tea, ceramics, along the ancient silk route.

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Now, it sells absolutely everything, and people come from all over

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the world to buy their goods here.

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I'll tell you - 7,200.

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OK.

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Nigel's been exporting from here for 12 years.

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He loves the thrill of the deal.

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Can you do 1.75?

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Come on, for an old friend.

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Now he's keen to bring good back the other way.

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OK, so you got this one...

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But red tape can make importing to China a nightmare.

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Nigel, you don't import from Europe back into China, do you?

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No.

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Now, why is that?

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What makes importing to this market hard?

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The government can change the law at any time.

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For example, I was ready to import a container of wine last year -

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had it all ready, but I didn't push the button on it

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because I was worried that they might change the law once

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it's on the water.

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It's a very grey area at the moment.

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A potential market of nearly 1.4 billion people.

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And the Chinese government controls access.

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The emperors once claimed to rule all under heaven.

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With the United States no longer leading on trade,

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President Xi has seized his chance, with a vision for land and sea

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routes wrapping the globe.

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TRANSLATION: We will not resort to outdated geopolitical manoeuvring.

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Instead, we hope to achieve a new model of win-win cooperation.

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APPLAUSE

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Critics say it makes little sense to move 50 containers by rail

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when you can shift thousands by sea on a single ship.

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But it's often a mistake to underestimate Chinese ambition.

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Beijing's invested huge political and financial capital

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in its new silk route, and this train is an important

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symbol of the biggest development plan in the world right now.

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Nearly half of the journey from China to Europe

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lies inside China.

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A lot of ground to cover, and the wealth gap between East

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and West a challenge as immense as the terrain.

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China's new Silk Road needs to solve China's problems -

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this China out here, not just the one I've left

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behind in Yiwu.

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The Silk Road was once unimaginably remote to most Chinese -

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not any more.

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In less than a decade, China's built twice as much

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high-speed rail as the rest of the world combined,

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and pushed it out to the far west.

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Using the lure of the Silk Road to draw the biggest tourist force

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in the world.

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China hopes its new Silk Road, laden with tourists,

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can bring wealth to the West.

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Xinjiang is home to the Uighur ethnic minority.

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They're mostly Muslim, culturally closer to Central Asia,

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but outnumbered in their homeland.

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The region has witnessed a vicious cycle.

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Bitterness over marginalisation driving bomb and knife attacks

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by Uighurs, and met by overwhelming force and religious repression.

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China is investing here - more than $250 million to build this

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theatre alone.

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And, the more China invests, the more it has to protect.

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But this Silk Road show works hard to spin a story of ethnic harmony.

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Behind her stage make-up, Buhalima is a Uighur.

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Once, Xinjiang was known for music and dance,

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and she's sad her homeland's now more famous for violence.

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TRANSLATION: Tourists I've met told me they heard Xinjiang

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was unsafe, that they couldn't be sure to get out unharmed

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if they came here.

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Some people did some bad things, and it's affected us all.

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The theatre employs 100 Uighurs, and China hopes the New Silk Road

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will give more a stake in the system.

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The ancient story has moments of danger, and China's grand

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new narrative is still fraught with peril.

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Deliver on the spin of opportunities for all, or forever scan the crowd

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for the enemy within.

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APPLAUSE

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A cathedral in Almaty.

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Kazakhstan - a strategic stop on China's New Silk Road,

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but traditionally Russia's backyard.

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Many Kazakhs grow up speaking Russian at school,

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watching Russian TV, even supporting a Russian football team.

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And none of that seems to have changed, but so much else has

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changed with the coming of China.

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Dosym Satpayev is a political analyst.

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He sees the nations of Central Asia as billiard balls in a game

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between the big players, Russia and China.

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China, I believe, will be likely some threat for our independence.

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Why?

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Because for China, Kazakhstan is not an equal partner.

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For China, Kazakhstan only is like as one of players in the big

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China geopolitical game.

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The heart of the new Silk Road is infrastructure.

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With the Chinese economy slowing back home, state construction

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companies are put to work abroad.

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This engineer delivering a state-of-the-art urban railway.

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TRANSLATION: China's advanced technologies bring in convenience

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and more comfort and safety for travellers in Kazakhstan.

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If this project goes well, it will serve as a model for others.

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TRANSLATION: But he tells me most of the jobs here will go to Chinese

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workers, and the loan to build this railway was tied

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to a Chinese design.

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China using its money and its muscle to achieve its own ends.

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Nearly two thirds of Kazakhstan's economy is oil and gas,

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an increasing share in Chinese hands.

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This was once Russia's backyard, but China's now contesting that.

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Kazakhstan is rich in energy and minerals, and it's a vital

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transit route - stretching all the way from the Chinese

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border to Europe.

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So while Kazakhs may still speak Russian,

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a lot of oil in their tanks now belongs to China.

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But locals here say they see little benefit.

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In the village of Kenkiyak a kindergarten has become a hostel

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for Chinese workers.

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Ardak Kubasheva was once a teacher here.

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Now she fears for their future.

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TRANSLATION: The Chinese have done nothing.

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There is a huge oil industry here but no jobs

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or facilities for young people.

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We want to live decently, so that we won't be

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ashamed of our village.

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She and others here complain of pollution and jobs

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going to outsiders.

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Government intimidation makes many Kazakhs cautious on camera,

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but privately several accuse Chinese companies of using

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bribes to cut corners.

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China says its presence abroad is a win-win -

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a win for China and a win for the people in its path.

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But that's not the experience here.

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They say their oil wealth is going elsewhere, and that win-win

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means China wins once, and then China wins again.

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Some Kazakhs will benefit from China's plans -

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more on the city skyline, a commuter railway, some

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highways, some pipelines - but building big and fast

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in a developing country, that often means corruption and crushing debt.

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Poland has looked west since the end of the Soviet bloc,

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but Eastern Europe is becoming a key piece in China's strategic jigsaw.

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It's already started mopping up assets, and hopes the New Silk Road

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will bind them together.

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Stalowa Wola, built 80 years ago to make steel and things that

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can be made from steel, like military tanks and bulldozers.

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In those days nearly everyone here worked for the Polish state,

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but who's providing the jobs now?

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This digger factory was near financial collapse

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when Chinese state firm LiuGong rescued it and 1200 workers.

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The average salary for the assembly line workers,

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it's around 3800 per month.

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Right.

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But he tells me this is a business, not a charity.

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He arrived as a manager six years ago, and he's still trying

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to modernise the place.

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Their factory in China takes just seven minutes to make a machine

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which takes four and a half days to build here.

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He is a long way from home.

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It's like a bachelor's life!

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A little bit, yeah.

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Like in the Army.

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So your parents are keen for you to get married

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so that they can have grandchildren.

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I mean, either trying to help you find somebody?

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They really did.

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They tried to introduce potential girlfriends for me.

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Could you search for someone online who actually wanted to live

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in Poland, who even wanted to live in Stalowa Wola, Poland?

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In the mind of Chinese girls they don't have any

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idea about Stalowa Wola!

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It's not just a wife he needs.

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At work the company's been struggling for orders.

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He needs the massive building projects on China's New Silk Road

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to boost demand for diggers and keep his workers in jobs.

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We haven't seen a mass of orders yet.

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So no real difference to the bottom line yet?

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Thanks to the One Belt One Road initiative I think the customers,

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they really have the need for the machines, but not yet.

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Belt and Road is the official name for China's New Silk Road.

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It's got an official name because it's a government project.

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State construction companies, state banks - not private

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traders or investors.

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Critics say this could be digging the world into a big hole.

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This is a plan by the state agencies, and it's going to be

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implemented by state agencies, so my worry is that it's

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going to end up with a huge amount of bad loans.

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With dozens of countries involved, it could be very very dangerous.

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Where some see risks, others see opportunities.

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China has a growing appetite for milk from where

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the grass is greener.

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Wieslaw inherited this land from his father,

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and he'll pass it on to his son.

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They want to expand the farm and the business.

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He says China could be part of their future.

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TRANSLATION: China is a very big and interesting market for us,

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and we want to try it.

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It's like a promised land.

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We are daring to think of doing new things now.

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But will China be happy

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to just purchase the product?

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In some of Poland's neighbours, it's buying farmland and

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setting up its own fast dairy herds.

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Say I'm a Chinese investor, and I come and knock

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on your door and I say, "I've got a lot of money - I want to

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buy your farm.

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You can just sit and take it easy."

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TRANSLATION: No, thanks.

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I wouldn't sell it to anybody.

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It is my father and grandfather's land and I want to

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have my touch on this farm.

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I don't want to sell it and have only money.

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It's a long way from this milking parlour

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to the breakfast table in Beijing.

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Europe complains of Chinese import barriers.

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It sells only half as much to China as China sells here.

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And Europe worries that Beijing's learned the art of divide and rule,

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to force a path through Europe for its New Silk Road.

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Shall we have jam first or clotted cream first?

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What's the right answer?

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There's no right or wrong.

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Lessons in the British tradition of afternoon tea

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from a Chinese citizen.

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The lovely sweet jam...

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Tingting plans to take her pitch from an Essex tearoom to China.

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A Communist state perhaps, but one with a healthy

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appetite for the rituals of the British ruling class.

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Her jam is with berries straight from the Tiptree Farm.

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China's consumers getting choosy about food quality.

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A huge market but hard to stand out.

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I think we're still at the beginning of the journey.

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We are starting small by introducing new things, and a few things...

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I mean, the Chinese are a curious country, or curious consumers -

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they always surprise us.

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I have never seen so much jam!

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It is, a world of jam.

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So these are all bound for China?

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Mm.

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But China's a long way away, and shipping by sea

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can take two months.

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No wonder the UK currently sells more to the tiny

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Republic of Ireland.

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Tingting hopes the new train service will help.

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Once a symbol of British Empire and engineering, now it's China's

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great age of the railways, carrying UK hopes for

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post-Brexit markets.

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From one end of the New Silk Road back to its start.

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Three weeks later and those British goods from the train

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are on display at a Chinese trade fair.

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No one but me showing an interest.

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It's a local stir-fry which captures the crowd.

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So how are other European exporters doing?

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There's certainly a lot of curiosity about the European

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products in there, but I didn't overhear any huge deals being done.

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I think there's still a long way to go.

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The ancient Silk Road was driven by private traders

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from many countries.

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The new version is Chinese state money and muscle.

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China has the most ambitious plan for our century.

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If it succeeds, it will make China a superpower again,

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even mightier perhaps than the empires of old.

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But if it fails, it'll leave a legacy of bad blood

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which poisons China's future, and taints even

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the grandeur of the past.

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The BBC's China editor, Carrie Gracie, has travelled from the east of China to the west of Europe, to hear from people who live along the route of China's new Silk Road.