Kids featured in China’s latest online propaganda video are literally singing praises and dancing about the country’s “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) transcontinental trade and infrastructure initiative.
A clip posted to YouTube by the state-run China Daily Wednesday features children, supposedly from countries involved in the project, singing “out their gratitude.” Their song’s lyrics tout how the trade initiative is also a “culture exchange” that allows people to “trade in our wealth” and “connect with our hearts.”
“The future’s coming now, the Belt and Road is how; we’ll share the goodness now, the Belt and Road is how,” goes the refrain.
Appearing as well are ongoing installments of “Belt and Road Bedtime Stories,” in which a father-daughter pair, supposedly from the U.S. but living in Beijing, implausibly discuss the positives of OBOR and globalization before bedtime.
The stories have a timely peg: the father is supposedly leaving on a business trip to Beijing for an upcoming forum on OBOR, hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. He then launches into an exhilarating tale, in nightly parts, touting Beijing’s vision of China-driven Eurasian trade and economic cooperation.
First unveiled by Xi in 2013, the “belt” and “road” refer respectively to the ancient Silk Road and maritime trade routes across the Eurasian continent and to Africa, which have historically connected China and Europe.
“Once upon a time, several routes led from China to Central Asia and Europe,” begins the story — the father even uses toy camels and boats tracing ancient trade routes on a map.
“A few years ago, China’s president Xi Jinping proposed making new routes like the old routes,” he earnestly continues, as the daughter appears to listen attentively. “This forum is a chance to tell the world about the Belt and Road, like I’m telling you.”
Beijing has been spending lavishly to build a series of roads, railways, ports and pipelines in countries along the routes. It envisions a network of infrastructure that will eventually connect 65 countries across three continents, with over 4 billion people and 40% of the world’s GDP.
The father also take shots at the apparent U.S. retreat from open trade, naming it as a non-participant of the initiative. “Is that because it’s too far away?” the daughter asks.
In the video’s thumbnail, a storybook’s back cover helpfully reiterates the message.
Online clips —both geared for external and domestic consumption — has become a popular means for China to promote its policies and its perspective on issues, as part of its still fledgling, and often ham-fisted, soft power. Previous attempts have included aggressively nationalistic rap and cute, catchy tunes about its five-year plan.
The country has moved into more traditional mediums to get its message across as well, from television specials on Xi’s anti-graft efforts, featuring confessions by allegedly corrupt officials, to a House of Cards-esque series on day-to-day corruption busting.