Nostalgia in the Context of "the Belt and Road Initiative": An Analysis of a Chinese Documentary: Maritime Silk Road

  • Gu, Zhun (The University of Nottingham)
  • Published : 2018.06.30


Produced by Chinese local television stations, Maritime Silk Road is a documentary which adopts ancient Maritime Silk Road as a historical nostalgia to interpret "the Belt and Road Initiative", a contemporary Chinese economic, political, and cultural strategy put forward by Chinese government mainly aiming at the countries of Southeast Asia. The main body of this article has three parts and the first part analyses how the documentary adopts computer-generated imagery (CGI) to create a historical nostalgia about ancient Maritime Silk Road in the period of Imperial China. At the same time, this part also presents a sense of diasporic nostalgia of the overseas Chinese. This historical and diasporic nostalgia is related to Chinese President Xi Jinping's political discourse: "Chinese dream" that propagandises to build a strong China put forward by Xi in 2013. The second part analyses how this historical and diasporic nostalgia legitimates Xi's "Chinese dream" and how it responds to recent territorial dispute when China continuously claims its territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea. In this light, the documentary repeatedly mentions two political rhetoric: "coexistence" (gongcun) and "mutual benefit"(huli gongying) as a practical strategy to deal with the dispute between China and some countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In the third section, the concept of "community of common destiny" (mingyun gongtongti) is adopted by the documentary to depict a convenient and effective organization of China and ASEAN, which is framed as an ultimate goal that Chinese government is depicted as the potential leader of this nostalgic community. At the same time, by providing different and even opposite viewpoints, this article discusses three controversial political rhetoric to present how historical and diasporic nostalgia is politicalized and served for Chinese diplomacy and national interest. Overall, this article argues that the documentary creates a glorious ancient Maritime Silk Road, as a sense of nostalgia, to expand China's economic and political influence, to respond to the controversial issues, and to reassert China's leadership as the centre of Asia.


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