(wind whistling) (dramatic music) - The Chinese Communist Party presents the central threat of our times.
(light dramatic music) - [Reporter] Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus?
- It comes from China.
It comes from China.
- [Nick] A new era of confrontation.
- If these two turn out to be adversaries, I cannot imagine anything major in the world would be able to be solved.
- [Nick] Tensions over trains, trade and technology.
- Make no mistake about, it China's current technological thrusts poses an unprecedented challenge to the United States.
- [Nick] Our economic future is at stake.
(speaking foreign language) Ground Zero for, a deadly outbreak.
- World Wars, depressions, 9/11.
This falls in that category.
- [Nick] But still, the fastest growth in world history.
- In no other country than China, have you had such a great amount of change, in such a short amount of time.
- [Nick] The most important relationship in the world, and the strongest Chinese leader in half a century.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] If China wants to become a big strong country, it will need Xi Jinping.
(people yelling in foreign language) - He want total control.
We believe in democracy.
But they believe in suppression.
(dramatic music) - [Nick] Tonight, China's Power and Prosperity.
(dramatic music) - [Announcer] This program was made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.
(triumphant music) - [Nick] In Beijing's Great Hall of the People, the people clap in unison for one man.
Xi Jinping, Communist Party General Secretary, Commander in Chief, President of the People's Republic of China says he's making China great again.
(audience applauding) (speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The Chinese nation has achieved a tremendous transformation: it has stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong.
It offers Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind.
- Not since Mao Zedong, Communist China's founding father, has a Chinese leader suggested so clearly the world could emulate China.
(audience applauding) Not since Mao has China had a leader as powerful as Xi Jinping.
Last year we traveled to China twice and reported from 8 countries, to try and understand today's China and its relationship with the U.S. We wanted to return but the pandemic grounded us and changed the world.
And in this global crisis, the two governments are decreasing collaboration and accelerating confrontation.
(speaking foreign language) In March Xi Jinping flew to Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, to declare success.
(crowd applauding) He congratulated healthcare workers and the public for winning the quote "People's war" against COVID-19; another phrase borrowed from Mao.
From January to March the government restricted the movement of more than 760 million citizens.
Thousands of neighborhoods, locked down.
State planners mobilized, and built two hospitals in less than two weeks.
- We have the confidence that we will eventually control the outbreak and win the battle, because we have very strong leadership under President Xi Jinping.
- [Nick] Even Xi Jinping admitted COVID-19 tested that leadership.
And the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands worldwide, brought U.S.-China tensions to their worst point in half a century.
- China didn't share all of the information it had.
Instead, it covered up how dangerous the disease is.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Pompeo is used to making up lies as excuses for his own misbehavior.
- I call it the plague from China.
(audience laughing) The plague.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The international community generally disagrees with this selfish behavior that avoids its responsibilities and undermines international cooperation.
- [Nick] For Xi Jinping, the state media narrative is that he provides his people protection, and prosperity.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I sincerely hope that our folks here live a good life, a safe and sound life.
I hope no one will be left behind in building a moderately prosperous society.
I wish you all happiness and health.
(crowd cheering) (crowd applauding) - [Nick] As soon as travel restrictions were lifted, he checked in with shop owners, workers, even young students.
Xi calls himself the country's core leader, the same phrase that Mao used.
Xi's travels recreate Mao's countryside visits, and they celebrate Mao as a hero who birthed Communist China 70 years ago, ignoring the millions who feared Mao as a tyrant.
(speaking foreign language) At the Communist Party's National School, Mao stands sentry, and the message is tightly controlled.
Professor Han Qungxiang wrote the book, literally on Xi Jinping thought.
The government put him forward for us to interview.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The country's development needs Xi Jinping, and people's happiness needs Xi Jinping.
If China wants to become a big strong country, it will need Xi Jinping.
- We have a phrase the American dream, and the American dream is about personal prosperity.
It seems like what Xi Jinping is talking about is a collective dream.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The history of China has proved over and over that only when the country is strong, the nation revived, then all of the people can enjoy a happy life.
(tank artillery banging) - [Nick] It's not just happiness.
Xi's national revival calls for China to quote "stand tall in the East."
He has dramatically modernized China's army, navy and air force, and opened up China's first overseas base, in Djibouti in east Africa.
(chanting in foreign language) And most controversially: China claims almost all of the South China Sea and has militarized tiny islands, flouting U.S. objections and international law.
(Leng Feng roaring) Xi's China flaunts its strength to the world and the Chinese public.
(players cheering) As seen in China's highest grossing film of all time.
"Wolf Warrior II" star and director Wu Jing plays Leng Feng, a former soldier who becomes a rogue hero, launching a seeming suicide mission against the bad guys and teaming up with fellow Chinese, to win the day.
(tank crashing) - Pass me the flag.
- [Nick] In Xi's China, the good guys are the Chinese military.
(rocket booming) - [Man] Sir, why are we helping these (beeping) idiots?
- The bad guy?
- Welcome to Africa, son.
- [Nick] Is a violence-loving, colonialist American.
(man groaning) - People like you will always be inferior to people like me.
(Leng Feng grunting) (fist thudding) - That's history.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] In Chinese modern history, China has been bullied for a long time.
When we are rich, our country can protect us.
When we feel like we are in danger, we will be protected by our country.
Not like before.
- [Nick] During coronavirus, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian was dubbed Wolf Warrior, for his aggressive style of criticizing the West.
(gunshot banging) (people screaming) Especially during the protests and civil unrest that followed George Floyd's death.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The whole world has watched as things unravel in the U.S. American politicians had better get their own house in order.
- [Nick] As Wolf Warrior Diplomacy projects the Communist party externally, Xi Jingping's China increases the party's primacy, internally.
(speaking foreign language) Hong Cheng works for the medical and high-tech company Tidal Star and leads the company's Party Committee.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Today we're going to study an article.
Please open the app "Study Xi, Strengthen China."
- [Nick] This is Tidal Star's Party Room, where Xi Jinping Thought is written on the wall, and employees are fed a daily diet of Xi Jinping and Communist Party thought on their phones.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] This app has rich content and timely updates.
It not only leads our company in long-term development, it also provides guidance to our daily works.
- Is the role of the Communist Party growing in China, including in private companies like this one?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The party committee was started in 2009.
Since it was established we've achieved many positive results: uniting our employees, gathering our strength, and promoting our company's development.
- [Nick] But thousands of miles away, in Hong Kong, submitting to Xi Jinping Thought is unthinkable.
This was the scene last year.
This is one of Hong Kong's main thoroughfares, and protestors have completely taken it over.
And they use umbrellas not only for the sun, but also because it's the symbol of the democracy movement here, and they say that the freedoms that this city has enjoyed, are being eroded.
(yelling in foreign language) - When Xi Jinping began to be even more aggressive in suppression, he is trying to you know build up his own Chinese Dream, which is a total control of people.
- [Nick] Lee Cheuk-Yan is a former Hong Kong legislator.
- The people of Hong Kong are, the young, especially younger generation, are very much worried, that China is trying to destroy Hong Kong as it is.
And our identity, our culture, our rule of law, our aspirational democracy, our freedom, everything will be lost in the future.
- [Nick] When you guys think of your identity, do you identify yourselves as both Chinese and from Hong Kong?
Or just Hong Kong?
- Just Hong Kong.
- Just Hong Kong.
(singing in foreign language) - [Nick] Hong Kong's Generation Z wanted freedom so much, they wrote their own national anthem, with its own music video that went viral.
(singing in foreign language) "The time has come to wage a revolution," they sing.
"Freedom and liberty belong to this land."
- [Protestor] If we give up, we're just telling to China that Hong Kong people is the same as the Mainland China.
We are not going to let this happen.
Hong Kong is not China.
- [Nick] But Xi Jinping used COVID-19 to accelerate steps that could make Hong Kong, another Chinese city.
In May, The National People's Congress; Beijing's rubber stamp legislature, endorsed a pathway that could effectively end Hong Kong's British rule of law.
The vote was 2,878 to one.
(audience applauding) To understand the impact, we set up another interview with Lee Cheuk-Yan.
- And when people speak out, you are arrested and charged with subversion.
When you go out on the street, you are being followed.
To change Hong Kong from the rule of law, that we are so proud of, as I've said, to become rule by law and then rule of fear.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] Lee helped organize a recent demonstration, and has been arrested twice, charged with inciting an unauthorized assembly.
- Democracy in China now!
- [Crowd] Democracy in China now.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] Beijing's second highest ranking official said the legislation would maintain security and stability.
What the Communist Party says, is that everything they do, including the national security law, is about the stability of the Communist Party.
And if the stability of the Party were to be eroded, then there would be chaos.
- That's the myth by the Chinese Communist Party to control the people.
Xi Jinping does not care how the world look at him.
He had one world perspective is that, you know, that China should be in the center of the world.
He want to be that sort of dictator.
He feels that he can sort of, you know, command his own power and conquer the world or make the world submit to his will.
(horns honking) - [Nick] Inside mainland China, few critics are willing to echo that language in public.
Last year we met one exception in the only place he felt comfortable: our hotel room.
Historian Zhang Lifan wouldn't use Xi Jinping's name.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Because the Communist Party of China is unchecked, corruption is widespread within the system.
So if he wants to get rid of opponents, he can easily do so by finding evidence of their corruption.
Therefore, he was able to purge many political opponents with an unstoppable force.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] As many as 2,000,000 Party members have been investigated for corruption.
Lawyers who have represented activists, have been disbarred.
Journalists who write critically, have been thrown into prison.
Xi has replaced collective leadership with centralized authority.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The current leader has changed everything.
He first canceled the term limit of the country's presidency and then re-raised the idea that the party leads everything.
As a result, some of the achievements of the political reforms of the 1980s no longer exist.
- [Nick] Xi's reversing those reforms, launched by his powerful predecessor Deng Xiopiang, is a topic even Xi's allies avoid.
- Deng talked about there shouldn't excessive concentration or leadership by one person.
Xi has removed term limits.
Why has he done that?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] This is not a problem yet.
Not the right time to talk about it.
- Why are the needs of the country so great that Xi Jinping needs more time?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] It's not the time to answer this question.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] And then he says to our off-camera minder.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] He just wants power longer to get more control.
(light dramatic music) (speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I'm afraid.
In front of me is the virus, and behind me is the legal and administrative power of China.
But as long as I live in this city, I will continue to report.
(speaking foreign language) (speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Maybe they won't go after me.
But I can't stay silent.
If they don't come after me, they will come after you.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Today, I'm going to say something blunt: mother (beeping), I'm not even afraid of death.
You think I'm afraid of the Communist Party?
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] In January, citizen journalist Chen Qiushi traveled to Wuhan, where COVID-19 began, to expose, what the government hid.
(speaking foreign language) For two weeks Chen documented problems in hospitals that were overwhelmed.
(speaking foreign language) Fang Bin was a Wuhan businessman when he filmed body bags in Wuhan, left in a van.
Another of Fang's videos was just 12 seconds long.
(speaking foreign language) A scroll of paper with the words, "All citizens resist" and "Power back to the people."
The same day, he was arrested, and hasn't been seen since.
Chen also disappeared, and hasn't been seen since this last video.
(speaking foreign language) - Chinese people now reached an understanding that this government failed them.
This disaster, by large, is manmade, and the authority, both the local authority and the central authority, bear a big responsibility for what's happening.
- [Nick] Xiao Qiang is the editor in chief of the U.S. based China Digital Times, a news site that highlights content suppressed by China's state censors.
- By containing the coverage, by providing the censorship, and denial, and information withhold, and the propaganda, it destroyed the public trust that's very much needed at the time to fighting with the epidemic.
- [Nick] The U.S. accuses China of a pattern of deception beginning in December, when Wuhan's Central Hospital doctors realized the illnesses they were treating were not routine.
- They shared the information with their relatives, their friends.
They were asked to shut up.
- [Nick] Yanzhong Huang is the Council on Foreign Relations' senior fellow for Global Health.
We spoke to him via Zoom.
- Some health care workers already got infected and that was a smoking gun evidence suggesting human to human transmission.
- [Nick] Dr. Ai Fen was Wuhan Central Hospital's director of emergency medicine.
On December 30th, she told her medical school classmates she'd been treating a new coronavirus contagious to humans, and sent patient samples to labs.
The scientists investigated the genome, and the doctors sounded the alarm about COVID-19.
But then the doctors and scientists were silenced.
On New Year's Day, the National Health Commission put a gag order on the scientists researching the virus.
And authorities detained Dr. Li Wenliang and seven other doctors, accusing them of spreading rumors causing adverse social impact.
And the lab that posted the first genome of the virus was temporarily shut.
Dr. Ai said she went home terrified, and told her husband, "If something goes wrong, you can raise our child."
- It's been 128 days since Chinese doctor Ai Fen shared information on the internet about a patient with a SARS-like virus.
China could have prevented the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
- [Nick] And while local authorities suppressed information about COVID-19, they hosted this, a banquet, with no social distancing, for 40,000 people.
Weeks later, Xi Jinping gave the green light, and local and national Chinese authorities quickly admitted that COVID-19 was dangerous and spread between humans.
That's when Wuhan writer Fong Fong started a diary.
She wrote the new information was "completely at odds with what we had seen and heard earlier," and "the virus roamed the city like an evil spirit.
Appearing whenever and wherever it pleases."
She wrote the initial suppression of information "transformed Wuhan into a city of blood and tears filled with endless misery.
To my dear internet censors: You had better let the people of Wuhan speak out and express what they wanna say!"
(woman screaming) (screaming in foreign language) Instead, weeks of cover-up and inaction, turned into a draconian police state.
(screaming in foreign language) Authorities punished people for not wearing masks, and dragged families out of their homes into forced quarantines.
Local authorities, hoping to prove their loyalty to the top, felt empowered to crack down.
Is that a problem particular to Xi Jinping?
- It was always there in a hierarchical, political, authoritarian, political, structural way.
But I think since 2012, we found that these political power has been rapidly centralized.
- [Nick] After Dr. Li died, public outcry against the state crescendoed.
"Farewell Li Wenliang" written here in snow.
When a senior official visited Wuhan, residents shouted out of their windows, quote, "Everything is fake."
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] In response the government doubled down and turned to disinformation.
On March the 12th so-called Wolf Warrior diplomat, Zhao Lijian, wrote on Twitter, "It might be the U.S. Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan."
- After Dr. Li Wenliang's death, you know there was this mass mourning and anger.
There was this strong pressure, a demand for a meaningful change on the political front.
If you look at the outcome of this disinformation effort, it does actually distracted the domestic attention from making change on the political front.
(light music) - [Nick] China then turned to deflection.
Zou Yue is a leading anchor at Chinese State TV.
- President Trump and his team were not helpful.
Their problem is a lack of serious commitment.
- [Nick] Chinese media blunted domestic criticism and showcased worldwide donations to hard hit countries like Italy.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] This saved many lives and it has been absolutely necessary.
For your help, thank you.
- [Nick] The U.S. called China's mask diplomacy, an effort to mask culpability.
- Good morning, everyone.
They were the first country to know about the risk to the world from this virus, and they repeatedly delayed sharing that information with the globe.
China now making small sales of product around the world and claiming that they are now the white hat in what has taken place.
- [Nick] Both sides portrayed the confrontation as ideological.
- The central government in China plays the role of a champion, guide, coordinator, supervisor and guarantor of last resort.
So, when I saw Governor Cuomo of New York begging the federal government to step in to get ventilators- - What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?
- I thought wow, what a difference different systems can make.
- What do autocracies do in the face of crisis?
They become more aggressive, they deny people their rights, they lie more.
In the end they do enormous harm to the people of their own nation and put the rest of the world at risk.
- [Nick] But when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo got supplies, he didn't get them from Washington.
- The Chinese government is going to facilitate a donation of 1,000 ventilators that will come into JFK today.
- [Nick] China produces 50% of the world's medical supplies, and that's now increasing.
- I think the pandemic highlighted the U.S. and Western countries vulnerability to China.
We have to recognize that China may use that as a weapon against us in the potential trade war.
(boat horn blowing) (upbeat music) - [Nick] That trade war started long before COVID-19.
This is Shenzhen, China's silicon valley.
Across Shenzhen's SEG e-Market's 10 floors, thousands of businesses sell locally and internationally.
If you have a product that's labeled made in China, chances are it comes from here.
Over decades, China built a manufacturing base, not only for electronics, but all industries that provide cheap and reliable labor to American businesses.
(machines whirring) Shanghai General Sports produces more than 3,000,000 bikes every year, 80% for the U.S., and it's a family business.
Meet CEO Lei Ge whose father was the company's founder.
- We work with our partners in the States as a family.
That's why we can become so close.
- [Nick] A phase one trade deal signed in January cut some U.S. tariffs in exchange for Chinese purchases, but not the tariffs on Shanghai General Sports.
Nor did it answer the U.S.'s fundamental concerns about trade.
Here's another family business we visited last year, Shanghai General Sports' chief customer, Kent Bikes CEO Arnold Kamler.
- My grandparents came over to the United States in 1907 and immediately opened a bicycle store.
I joined the company in 1972, and so my family has been in the bicycle business and nothing else for more than 110 years now.
- Is there a point of saying, hey, wait a minute, China is doing things that are unfair to our businesses and pushing back on Chinese practices?
- Look I applaud President Trump for making a point of this.
I just don't agree with the manner that it's being handled.
A factory in China for many years could lose 10% on their cost and still with the money they're getting back from the government still make a profit.
So that's, that's pretty serious cheating.
(upbeat music) - [Nick] The U.S. says that cheating started as cheap copycats.
SportsCams, not GoPros.
New Baiahne, not New Balance.
Wu-Mart, not Wal-Mart.
And then the U.S. says it expanded to industrial theft.
Designs of nuclear power plants, navigation satellite technology, billion dollar American jets.
(jet engines roaring) The U.S. says in just a few decades, theft helped China make its military world-class, and its companies technology leaders.
- That kind of technological advancement doesn't happen organically.
- [Nick] Jake Parker is the Vice President of the U.S.-China Business Council, which advocates for American businesses in China.
- China's system is set up in such a way that the state has access to information that companies would consider to be trade secrets.
President Trump has raised issues that have been an irritant in the relationship for a very, very long time.
That have not been adequately addressed by the Chinese side.
And frankly, those issues go to the core of how China's economic system operates.
(upbeat music) - [Nick] The Chinese government protects key industries from foreign competition.
Especially artificial intelligence.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] We hope our products can replace human labor in industries in factory environments.
(robots whirring) - [Nick] EX Robot is working on human-like AI robots.
(speaking foreign language) They can mimic facial expressions, respond to questions- (speaking foreign language) Even host a TV show.
EX Robot president Yang Dongyue.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Their main function is to communicate with people, so a good appearance is a must.
If the robot is very good-looking, like a pretty lady or a handsome man, people will feel more pleasant when talking with them.
(upbeat music) - [Nick] China is racing to become the global center for AI by 2030, and is spending $150 billion to do so.
The U.S. says companies like EX Robot are hiding how much government aid they receive.
But these companies are growing rapidly and drive China's unprecedented economic boom.
(gentle classical music) Their pacing is precise.
Their spacing is seamless and their pours are perfect.
This is China's first butler academy.
Their future employers will be members of China's new rich.
(wine splashing) In communist China, billionaires are built faster than anywhere else.
There are now more billionaires in Beijing, than in New York, working in technology, real estate, and pharmaceuticals.
- In no other country other than China have you had such a great amount of change in such a short amount of time.
- [Nick] Sara Jane Ho knows all about the privilege and pressure of being rich in China.
- Average price here is probably 1,000 U.S.
It's not too expensive at all.
- [Nick] She's been dubbed China's "Millennial Martha Stewart," and founded the country's first finishing school.
- Sometimes I let friends come and observe our classes and they say, wow you know your students are so sophisticated, they don't look like people who need etiquette.
Well you know what, Princess Diana went to finishing school.
Did she go because she was spitting on the street?
- We can cook a warm pasta.
- It's not 'cause she was rude.
It's 'cause she went to be a better version of herself.
There was a part of Chinese history there was no education.
You couldn't go to school, college, et cetera.
But now Chinese are traveling abroad, emigrating abroad, sending their children abroad.
And so as a result, starting I'd say five years ago, there was a great need for Chinese to understand an international code; how to be a citizen of the world.
Mm, it tastes so good.
- [Nick] Xi Jinping has recently cracked down on this conspicuous consumption.
But the country's growth created a new class and fast.
(speaking foreign language) - The affluent right now in China.
They're all new money.
There's no old money in China because of historical reasons.
A lot of people were very poor, I mean everybody was very poor, up until the 90s.
(chanting in foreign language) - [Nick] Accumulating wealth in communist China was once considered counter-revolutionary.
Mao Zedong came to power in 1949 vowing to eliminate class and capitalism.
(drums pounding) (speaking foreign language) Mao pursued his utopian vision of communism.
Affluent families lost their wealth and many lost their lives.
Tens of millions died from famine, and almost 90% of the population lived in extreme poverty.
That changed in the late 70s and 80s, when Deng Xiaoping loosened state control over China's economy and permitted private enterprise.
China grew faster than any country ever has, into the world's second largest economy.
But all of that is now in jeopardy.
- China out with GDP data overnight showing the first contraction of the economy since it began publishing the data back in 1992.
- [Nick] The economic plunge caused by coronavirus not only threatens the country's economic gains, but also Xi Jinping's plan to eradicate poverty this year.
The World Bank says 24% or 300 million people live below the poverty line of $5.50 a day.
And one of Xi's key stimulus programs, to help lift rural Chinese out of poverty and to expand China's influence around the world is the Belt and Road Initiative.
(train whirring) The Belt and Road Initiative is one of Xi Jinping's signature policies.
And when Xi Jinping calls world leaders to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, they show up.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Connectivity is the main focus of China's opening up.
(light music) - [Nick] 2,000 years ago the ancient Silk Road helped China spread goods, ideas and culture all the way to Europe.
Today, China aspires to recreate a Maritime Silk Road of ports and an economic belt of roads, pipelines, and railways across 70 countries, including a network of railroads in Indonesia.
(birds chirping) (gentle music) Today, Indonesia welcomes Belt and Road investment.
Outside Bandung, the commuter train is old and slow.
But now, cutting through the hills that lead to Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, there's a tunnel for a high-speed train.
And the engineers and managers who lead this $6,000,000,000 project, are Chinese.
- This benefit us very much, you know.
Because we are going to have also like a new cities, you know, suburb.
So then we can spread out people to the area.
- [Dan] With new industry, new employment, new production?
- Yes, yes indeed.
- [Nick] Indonesian Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan dreams of traveling like the Chinese.
- I experienced that when I was in Beijing.
I went from Beijing only one hour by speed train, you know.
- [Nick] Like the train we rode last year from Hong Kong to the city of Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland.
- [Announcer] We will soon arrive in Shenzhen-Bei.
- Welcome to China!
In 20 years, China has gone from no high-speed rail to the longest high-speed rail network in the world thanks to state owned enterprises.
The rails, the electricity, the telecommunications all produced by enterprises owned mainly by the state.
And then there's majority state owned Baosteel.
Baosteel is so big, it has its own ports; 4 of them, outside Shanghai.
Huang Weiliang directs Baosteel's Strategic Planning.
How important is Belt and Road Initiative to the company?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] For the steel industry, the Belt and Road Initiative involves some key projects like ports, railroads, bridges, stadiums, and power grids.
These will generate direct demand for steel products.
- [Nick] Xiao Weiming leads the office in the Chinese ministry that oversees BRI.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] We encourage Chinese companies to go out of China to enhance their production capability.
In return we can use the increased government revenue to improve the income level of some poor areas.
This is important.
- [Nick] But the Belt and Road Initiative doesn't only expand Chinese infrastructure.
- Well, China is a big power now.
And big powers normally want to expand their influence.
(audience applauding) - [Nick] Mahatir Mohamad served as Malaysian Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003, and again until earlier this year, at the age of 92.
When he came to power, Mahatir froze BRI projects.
- Everything is imported, mostly from China.
Workers were from China.
All the parts and the materials were from China.
That means that Malaysia doesn't get any benefit at all.
- [Nick] Belt and Road projects can come at a steep price.
Sri Lanka, privatized a port when it couldn't afford debt payments to a Chinese bank.
To build Belt and Road railroad with Chinese loans, Kenya agreed to apply Chinese law inside the country.
And to pay for South America's largest dam, Ecuador is selling 80% of its most valuable asset, oil, to China at a discount.
- These transactions aren't fair.
- [Nick] Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Trump Administration have aggressively confronted the Belt and Road Initiative and accused the program of being corrupt, and reducing countries' sovereignty.
- They're showing up with money in brown paper bags.
They're putting debt on nations that they can't possibly repay, so that they'll ultimately be able to exert political influence.
- What's your response to that criticism?
That the Belt Road Initiative contracts are debt traps and aren't transparent.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Chinese companies won the bidding and other foreign companies did not win, and the reason is simple.
Foreign companies and workers are not as hard-working as the Chinese.
- But don't those Chinese companies get advantages not because they're just hard workers, but because they are funded and many of these loans are backed by the Chinese state?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I cannot say it's the Chinese government's support.
China's financial institutions will provide financing only if they deem the projects are profitable.
We do not make investments blindly.
We Chinese are not stupid.
- [Nick] The U.S. is trying to increase its own investments in important countries, to counter China.
But it's having to play catch up.
- The Chinese very aggressive.
If you look on the last 30 years, the Chinese economy so efficient, moving forward also with the technology.
American technology is very good, you know.
But the last five years, I think the Chinese technology is much better.
- [Nick] In China, the technological champion is Huawei.
- This is our new P30 Pro.
- [Nick] The company is a 100 billion dollar phone and technology juggernaut.
Can you describe the vision of this company as you see it?
- We want, you know, bring the communication to every continent and to every family, to every house, to every people.
- This is our, we are the first one with 5G.
- [Nick] Last September Huawei launched the world's first chip with integrated 5G, or 5th generation phone technology.
5G will dramatically speed up phones, is designed to connect everything around us, will transmit huge amounts of data instantly, and transform entire cities.
- We're now walking on the floor that touches everything in your city.
- [Nick] Last July, Chief Digital Information Officer Edwin Diender showed me what Huawei calls, Safe City.
A database of every citizens' face, every car, every license plate.
Tracking everyone by their cell phones.
And artificial intelligence that combines all their surveillance into one package.
- A couple of years ago all these different systems were different systems, and disconnected systems.
So, the first thing that has changed is that all these things are being able to integrated and combined with artificial intelligence.
- [Nick] Huawei and other Chinese telecom giants are building 5G and smart cities in more than 65 countries.
PBS NewsHour teams reported from 3 continents, and heard praise from police, and criticism from human rights advocates, that Chinese technology facilitates political repression.
- There will be no letup in this campaign - [Nick] Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has launched what he calls a war on drugs.
He turned to China for help.
In 2016, Duterte traveled to Beijing to secure Chinese government loans that allowed the Philippines to buy a Chinese safe city.
- In terms of the benefit of this project to the country, it's immeasurable.
- [Nick] Jonathan Malaya is the Philippines' Department of Interior and Local Government's under secretary.
- If we are to ensure the safety and security of our countrymen we must use every tool available.
- [Nick] But the government's opponents call the war on drugs an extrajudicial, murderous crackdown that's killed tens of thousands.
And those Chinese tools can enhance government suppression.
- Basically, what a Safe Cities program is all about, is increased electronic and technological surveillance.
- [Nick] The Philippines House political affairs officer Francisco Ashley Acedillo calls Huawei a front for the Chinese Communist Party.
- An Intelligence and security law passed recently by China, which requires all, everyone in China, both public and private, to assist intelligence agencies and authorities in intelligence gathering.
- [Nick] And a new government 10,000 miles to the west, Ecuador, found those Chinese intelligence tools were used against its own citizens.
Former President Rafael Correa built a national network of surveillance called ECU-911, with Chinese technology and Chinese government loans.
The current Ecuadorian government says ECU-911's surveillance was built with a backdoor to Ecuador's intelligence agency that targeted its political opponents.
(speaking foreign language) Like Retired Colonel Mario Pazmino.
A single Chinese produced camera, looks right into his living room.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] We were living in an era of government terrorism in which technological tricks are used to curtail people's freedom of expression.
They choose Chinese companies because China had already developed a monitoring system.
Their gift is a Trojan horse, designed to control everything in society.
- A White House official talking to me called this authoritarianism in a box.
What's your response to that?
- What do you want me to say?
I think it's also liberation in a box.
I think it's also city management and being very efficient in daily operations in a box.
- So, can this be used for surveillance, is it being used for surveillance?
- Well, what you're looking at is an element of intelligent video surveillance, which is common technology that's available worldwide.
Like every technology, it can be used in certain ways.
- [Nick] Does that concern you that some of these countries might be using this for- - Personally yes, of course.
I'm a person just like everybody else is a person.
I have my own concerns and my own views and yes, of course, that is a concern.
- [Nick] Huawei's considered such a threat the U.S. military banned the company.
And the Trump Administration blocked U.S. companies from selling technology to Huawei.
- The U.S. is trying to block Huawei, but is that really having any impact?
- There's no major impact.
All our major customers choose still stay with Huawei.
I think that is the fact.
(light dramatic music) - [Nick] Nowhere is Chinese technology more pervasive than in China.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, Wuhan shut down.
On China's biggest holiday, previously bustling city streets, stood quiet.
(wind whistling) (light dramatic music) In April, the government lifted restrictions.
(speaking foreign language) But movement is tightly controlled by technology.
To enter a supermarket, residents have to show a green code on their phone.
The codes appear inside popular apps.
Users enter their own health information, and the government tracks where everyone goes via cell phone.
Green means you're healthy.
Yellow means contact with an infected person in the last 2 weeks.
Red means confirmed positive or showing symptoms.
All of this information is shared with local police.
Residents don't seem to mind.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I believe the people who have yellow or red codes are either in hospitals or quarantined at home.
They are definitely not running around outside.
Those who are able to come out all hold a green code.
I feel safe.
- [Nick] The Chinese government says technology keeps citizens safe, and makes China modern.
- China is quite unique because it's been a rapidly developing country.
So we have very uneven distribution.
Technology helps to bridge those gaps.
- [Nick] Jessica Tan is the Co-CEO of Ping An, whose building towers over Shenzhen.
(gong ringing) Ping An boomed financially into the world's second largest insurance company.
But it's celebrating by turning old insurance into new tech.
- [Man] Micro-Expression Recognition-Based- - [Nick] One Ping An software determines whether loan applicants are lying about their identity by examining more than 90 distinct expressions.
- Sometimes when you are nervous there are these microexpressions that people would do.
- [Man] The system identifies abnormal emotions.
- Verifying the person who they are supposed to be is quite accurate.
I think it's now already better than the human eye.
- [Nick] And when 1.4 billion sets of human eyes are all entering data into their phones, that's big data and new data.
- Only about 35, 40% of them may have ever borrowed from a bank before.
Right, so, then the rest of them who hasn't borrowed before, you don't really have a good credit record.
It's actually zero credit record.
(horns honking) - [Nick] Ping An assessed its customers, by developing a social credit score, based on all the data from users phones.
Like Ping An, the government is now converting people's data into social credit scores.
In Shenzhen, cameras watch this intersection.
If people jaywalk, they're publicly shamed when their faces are displayed on this screen, and their credit scores are docked.
Do you think that because that camera is there, more people cross legally?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Of course, they are afraid to be seen doing something inappropriate, so they will change their behavior.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] If you jaywalk, it reduces your credit score.
For example, if you cross the red light, your score would be reduced by two to three.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] The credit score system is so important, there's even a Communist party-produced National Credit Magazine.
Wu Xiaoyan is the editor in chief.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] This system has become an effective measure in our social governance.
For example, on the bus, people with regular scores will pay regular price, and people with good scores only pay 80% of that.
- When I look in this magazine I see an honor list in red, and then in black, a black list.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Those on the red list are people who have trustworthy behavior.
Those on the black list are people whose behaviors are not trustworthy.
- Does it work?
Does rewarding people who act well and punishing people who act badly make more people act well?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Of course it works.
(speaking foreign language) - Okay, sure.
- Something about that question made her uncomfortable.
She and her staff walked out of the interview, and the newsroom.
But our microphones were still rolling, and recorded their conversation about my questions.
- [Translator] Don't talk about the government.
Talk about companies, businesses.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] We need to be calm, we cannot refuse to be interviewed.
- [Translator] Not too rigid or serious.
- [Nick] 10 minutes later, she did come back to finish the interview.
(speaking foreign language) - Everything okay?
She said everything was okay, but the government's critics say everything is not okay, because they say China's Big Data is becoming Big Brother.
Are you, as a constant critic of the government, under surveillance?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Of course.
We can feel this surveillance all the time.
The Chinese authorities use a network of cameras throughout cities, facial recognition systems, as well as various mobile phone apps to monitor individuals.
Surveillance is indeed omnipresent.
- [Nick] That surveillance happens automatically and instantaneously.
Every day, Chinese citizens send more than 45 billion messages on WeChat, the country's most popular messaging service.
If you type in something sensitive, like a reference to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Mandarin, the recipient never receives it.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] Sometimes, my wife and I suddenly can't contact each other.
I noticed that whenever foreign media reporters were trying to set up interviews with me, the police would always show up downstairs.
- [Nick] And the Chinese government used that unblinking surveillance to target a specific Muslim minority who's moved from Xinjiang, China to Turkey's largest city, Istanbul.
(somber music) (speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I never imagined this could happen in the 21st century: Innocent people subjected to cuffs on their hands, shackles, and black hoods over their heads.
- [Nick] Gulbahar Jalilova lives alone in a small apartment.
The injuries she suffered in Chinese detention three years ago have healed.
But she hasn't gotten over the memories.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I saw them, 14-year-old girls to 80-year-old women.
They take them for interrogation.
They would come back and their bodies were bruised, their heads swollen.
After three months, they put a black hood over my head and took me away.
- [Nick] Abdusalam Muhemet and every Uyghur we spoke to live in self-imposed exile because they're too scared of the Chinese government to go home.
Can you describe for us what that detention center was like?
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] They brought everyone in there because they called us suspicious.
There is unimaginable oppression inside.
Every day they'd toss us a little bread and water so that we didn't die, and every day they would interrogate 15 or 20 of us with unbearable brutality.
We are a people who have lost their freedom.
We became their target because we'd studied religion, and because we had influence in our society.
They locked us up in jail.
Then after taking us to a camp, they'd tell us we hadn't done anything wrong, that they were just educating us.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] The Chinese say they are re-educating Uyghurs by teaching them Mandarin Chinese and vocational skills.
This is Chinese state media video.
The detainees we interviewed, and international researchers, say it's staged and scripted, a facade that hides what's really happening.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The 10 hours of class they would teach us one day were exactly the same as the 10 hours they would teach us the next.
The Chinese were trying to change our minds, our faith, our beliefs.
It was a plot to force us to renounce our religion.
- [Nick] And then there are reports of forced labor.
International researchers found the Chinese government coerced hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to become laborers in factories.
Many of these factories make goods for Western companies.
(speaking foreign language) (explosion booming) The Chinese call Muslim Uyghurs extremists and terrorists.
In 2009, Uyghurs in Xinjiang's capital rioted.
Uyghur militants affiliated with Al Qaeda took credit for this 2013 attack in Tiananmen Square that killed 2 people and China blames male and female Uyghur militants in southern China for this 2014 knife assault that killed more than 30.
Those attacks are claimed by Uyghurs who call Xinjiang East Turkestan, which self declared independence in the early 20th century.
China says it's administered Xinjiang since 60BC.
And Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, says China is fighting separatists.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] The problem in Xinjiang is the issue of counter-terrorism and de-extremism, not religious and human rights issues.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] But In Xinjiang and a neighboring province, residents say China has launched a campaign against Islam.
The government has partially or completely destroyed at least a dozen mosques.
And Uyghurs say the Chinese aren't only targeting their religion.
In Istanbul, Uyghurs describe how China criminalized Uyghur language and all Uyghur culture.
The U.S. has called that campaign cultural genocide.
(singing in foreign language) China has even banned Uyghur music.
Yusup Sulayman sings about a culture that's been lost, and a people who've been silenced.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] They're disappearing our famous artists, composers, and songwriters before anyone else.
They're disappearing our intellectuals.
They've burned what they wanted to burn, and scrubbed what they wanted to scrub.
- [Nick] In Xinjiang's capital, a huge statue of Chairman Mao looms over the city.
In multiple interviews across China, we heard the same thing: China is fighting terrorism and fake news.
Su Ge is a former ambassador and former head of one of the Chinese foreign ministry's think-tanks.
- China and the United States, I think that we feel the same about the extremists.
We also have this danger of terrorism.
The best way to eradicate radicalism is to provide education, to provide development.
- There have been cases of imprisonment, that are on a mass scale, not just of terrorists or suspected terrorists, but actually entire families and entire cities.
- Well, to us, that's just somebody's trying to to write a story about it- - [Nick] You mean you think they're fiction?
You ask them, how many policemen have been injured and just by terrorists?
- [Nick] But Gulbahar Jalilova is not a terrorist.
And she can't forget those still in detention.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] I see them all in front of me, as if I were still in the camp myself.
(speaking foreign language) - [Nick] After she was released, she wrote down all the names of the women in her cell.
(speaking foreign language) The prisoners in one of thousands of cells across Xinjiang, China.
(speaking foreign language) So what's the future of U.S.-China relations?
Where do we go from here?
Most likely, even less collaboration, and more confrontation.
(light dramatic music) China watchers call this the worst moment in U.S.-China relations since relations were restored in the 1970s.
Tensions that already existed, are accelerating.
Confrontations over technology, trade, and the South China Sea.
The information war over COVID-19.
And China is center stage in the U.S. election.
On the Shanghai boardwalk, long before social distancing, I heard the hope, China and the U.S. could cooperate, and the fear of what could be at stake.
(speaking foreign language) - [Translator] If China and America can try to understand each other, then that would be best, ultimately allow us to avoid a fight to the death mentality.
- [Nick] These two countries, whose relationship will help determine so much of our future are drifting apart.
(light dramatic music) (dramatic music) - [Announcer] This program was made possible by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.