Visualizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative on RT (Russia Today): from infrastructural project to human development

van Noort, C. and Chatterje-Doody, P. N. (2021). Visualizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative on RT (Russia Today): from infrastructural project to human development. Eurasian Geography and Economics (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/15387216.2021.2005650

Abstract

This paper comprises original research on China’s use of bilateral media cooperation to mediate its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Building upon the literature on strategic narratives, aesthetic power and the Silk Road as a foreign policy concept, we present a detailed case study of the visual imagery of the “Silk Road” documentary collaboration between China’s and Russia’s state-owned international broadcasters, China Radio International and RT (formerly Russia Today). We employ a visual methodology to interrogate the formation and projection of multimodal (visual, textual and oral) narratives about China’s infrastructural activities along this metaphorical new “Silk Road”. We examine how the Silk Road series gives sense to China’s BRI, the relative weighting of Chinese and Russian strategic narratives about the BRI, and how power is distributed in this Chinese-Russian media partnership. Our analysis reveals that in re-packaging visual imagery that applies nostalgia to the history of core places and technologizes their future, the series projects a pre-curated Chinese visual narrative that emplots the BRI as human and cultural development. Russian regional strategic narratives are marginalized. China is applying its aesthetic power to Russian journalists and politicians; RT obtains some commercial benefits, but the Russian state’s aesthetic power is ceded to China.

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