May 10, 2017

Sleepless in China? These bedtime stories about China’s industrial development might could help


Perhaps the soporific effects of certain stories of government planning and infrastructural initiatives have already been well-established. But China has made a bold new intervention in the form: bedtime propaganda stories for children on infrastructural projects.

As Carlos Tejada, Asian business and economics reporter for the New York Times, writes:

China Daily, a state-controlled media organization that aims primarily at an international audience, began releasing English-language videos this week describing a huge spending and infrastructure push called the Belt and Road Initiative, in the form of a child’s bedtime story. In the two videos released so far, a father uses a windup camel skittering across a map to describe trade across Asia along the old Silk Road, and how China plans to help develop the regions it once passed through.

The bedtime story praises President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road plan to further connect the world—through roads, rails, fiberoptics, you name it—and make better use of China’s industrial (over)capacity. It also makes conspicuous mention of the United States’ uninvolvement in the initiative. As Tejada writes, the political context for the story is clear:

The Belt and Road videos were released ahead of a forum in Beijing next week dedicated to the infrastructure initiative. Mr. Xi and the leaders of countries including Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and Turkey plan to attend.

As the father in the video says, “It’s China’s idea, but it belongs to the world.”

You can watch the first video here, but beware — if you’re anything like the young American girl in the video, you may just be too riveted to fall asleep.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.