09/18/2023, 16.23
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TV series about Chinese medical workers in Africa promotes China’s aid policy

by John Ai

Titled "Welcome to Milele", the 32-episode mega-production by China's National Radio and Television Administration began filming in Tanzania to mark the 60th anniversary of the first Chinese medical team sent abroad and the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. For Beijing, cooperation and geopolitics go together in exchange for support over Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A new TV series is in the works dedicated to Chinese medical aid workers in Africa. Based on a true story, Welcome to Milele, a Swahili word that means "forever”, is being filmed both in China and Tanzania.

The initiative is part of the celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative and the 60th anniversary of the first team of Chinese medical aid group sent abroad, in the early 1960s.

The story follows a group of medical workers in an African village, Milele, who help and train locals in an atmosphere of friendship and collaboration.

The 32-episode series is one of the most important projects undertaken by China's National Radio and Television Administration.

Praised by official media, it has been endorsed by government officials as well as Tanzania’s former ambassador to China, Mbelwa Kairuki, who met with the series’ crews before they left for the African nation in August.

China sent over 30,000 medical aid workers to 76 countries and regions since the first group arrived in Algeria in 1963.

China began providing international aid in the 1950s, soon after Mao Zedong established his communist regime, providing military aid, as well as engaging in direct intervention to spread the communist ideology.

One megaproject was the Tazara railway,[*] connecting the port of Dar es Salaam, in eastern Tanzania, to Kapiri Mposhi, a city in Zambia. This was China’s most impressive foreign project in the 1970s, involving thousands of workers. At least 64 workers and engineers died.

Since then, Beijing’s motivations have shifted from purely ideological to geopolitical influence and recognition. Today, it is one of the largest aid providers in the world, governed by the principle of "non-interference" in the internal affairs of the recipient countries.

However, experts note that China’s dealings abroad lack transparency and financial accountability. Beijing’s silence over human rights abuses and corruption in infrastructure projects in some countries has been repaid with support on sensitive issues like Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet.

China’s foreign aid approach has nevertheless sparked criticism and dissatisfaction in China itself, among low-income Chinese.

Beijing released three white papers on foreign aid in 2011, 2014 and 2021, but the detailed amount of aid to specific countries has not been made public.

In 2020, China waived or extended the due date of loans owed by 77 countries without giving the list of the countries to the public.

On social media, many complained about “throwing money” and “buying support of One China Policy”, but were quickly removed.

As the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative continues to expand in its tenth year, China continues to promote the strategy despite criticism.

Xi Jinping’s Silk Road Fund began with US$ 40 billion, with an additional US$ 13.7 billion (100 billion yuan) in 2017. This is expected to grow further to pay for Xi’s foreign projects.

[*] Also known as the Uhuru (freedom) Railwaya or the Tanzam Railway.

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