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  • 00:00:02,000 --> 00:00:03,560 Russia and China.

  • Two major powers that are being drawn closer

  • by the Belt and Road Initiative.

  • I will explore the spectacular wealth

  • that's been created at the border of these two countries.

  • I'll uncover the history of Russians in China.

  • And I'll meet the latest Friendship Ambassadors of the Belt and Road.

  • A Belt and Road Initiative linking China and Russia

  • has sparked celebration and concern.

  • Rival powers, Russia and China...

  • Russia and with China...

  • Russia or China...

  • In my journey along the road to Russia,

  • I will visit China's border cities with Russia.

  • This entire city is lit in gold.

  • I will discover the splendours of Mongolia with its untapped riches,

  • -It's like a house on wheels! -Yes.

  • mysterious Uzbekistan through its stunning cities,

  • and I will explore the Kremlin and the power it wields.

  • This is my journey through one of China's key economic corridors

  • on its Belt and Road.

  • In the last year, much of the focus on international relations worldwide

  • has been on a US-China trade war.

  • One upshot from that is renewed attention on one of the world's oldest

  • and most chequered bilateral relationships.

  • I've been researching Sino-Russian relations,

  • and I've become convinced that it is an important relationship to watch.

  • The two countries' increasing alliance

  • is making American and some European leaders uncomfortable.

  • But is a China-Russia partnership so terrifying to begin with?

  • Where do we begin unpacking this bilateral relationship

  • that has more layers than a Russian doll?

  • Well, here's a good place to start,

  • the world's largest Matryoshka Doll Square,

  • replete with domes, dolls, and other designer kitsch.

  • This is a “Disney-fiedRussia.

  • This is Manzhouli, in Northeast China.

  • A border zone where Russia, Mongolia and China meet.

  • What's so amazing about this place

  • is how China so openly advertises its Russian links.

  • China has many friends,

  • but I haven't seen the Chinese government

  • building a Pakistan town or an Italian town

  • to celebrate its bilateral relations.

  • This place is absolutely one of a kind,

  • and a testament to Chinese-Russian ties.

  • The Doll Square is empty because it's freezing winter.

  • But make no mistake, Manzhouli is a busy town.

  • It's China's busiest land port,

  • and it is the main rail gateway to Russia.

  • 65% of all import-export trade runs along these tracks.

  • And these tracks are now busier than ever.

  • Trade between Russia and China soared by nearly 25% in 2018,

  • reaching a record turnover of US$108 billion.

  • Manzhouli is also a special cross-border trade zone,

  • and has all sorts of facilities for logistics, customs, processing,

  • exhibition, trading, supply chain finance, and so on.

  • This is the Russian-China trade hub.

  • But Manzhouli's relationship with Russia isn't all about dollars and cents.

  • It's also about friendship and goodwill

  • between neighbouring cities and states.

  • And Manzhouli has come up with new ways to promote those friendships.

  • The pageant has a strategic objective.

  • It's to promote China's friendship with Russia,

  • and shared neighbour, Mongolia.

  • The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor

  • is one of six major corridors on the Belt and Road masterplan.

  • Ma Ying Zhe is one of the men in charge of organising

  • this cross-border extravaganza.

  • So what does this beauty pageant have to do with the Belt and Road Initiative?

  • Who are the organisers?

  • The charm offensive is effective.

  • The event is covered by more than a hundred media outlets

  • in the three countries.

  • How do you not win hearts and minds with this?

  • These girls are walking around in so little clothing

  • in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius.

  • I couldn't do it.

  • This must be the toughest weather conditions

  • any beauty pageant participant has to endure, anywhere in the world!

  • Russian-China relations are all smiles now, mostly.

  • But there was a time when relations weren't so rosy.

  • In the early 1950s,

  • Russian and Chinese leaders dreamed of fashioning a world of Communism.

  • But by the late 60s,

  • the two Communist giants had entered into such a fierce battle for supremacy

  • that they became bitter enemies.

  • They even threatened to use nuclear weapons on each other.

  • Thousands of Muscovites demonstrate outside the Chinese embassy in Moscow.

  • The confrontation across the Ussuri River

  • at the Far Eastern frontier between the two countries

  • has provoked a king-sized outburst of propaganda from both sides.

  • The Russians claim that over 40 of their border guards have lost their lives.

  • The most serious development has been the Russian threat

  • to escalate the whole thing into a full scale conflict,

  • to initiate an offensive with nuclear weapons.

  • With the breakup of the Soviet Union,

  • the border dispute was also scaled down.

  • In 1991,

  • the two countries signed a pact demarcating their borders.

  • And today,

  • all bitterness from the past is hardly ever discussed.

  • Nowadays, the dialogue revolves around excellent bilateral relations.

  • In 2017,

  • Putin presented Xi with Russia's highest state award.

  • In 2018,

  • Xi handed Putin a large, goldenMedal of Friendship”,

  • declaring the Russian leader hisbest, most intimate friend”.

  • The two leaders have met over 30 times since 2013.

  • In addition to excellent trade ties,

  • China and Russia support each other on a wide variety of foreign policy issues,

  • including the Venezuela crisis,

  • North Korea's nuclear programme, and the Iran nuclear deal.

  • Whatever the strategic reasons may be for the blossoming friendship,

  • it has made Manzhouli a boom town.

  • With serious investment pouring into the Wild West frontier town

  • of the Chinese border,

  • Sino-Russian trade is taking off.

  • And I'm off to meet a tycoon raking it in from the Sino-Russian trade.

  • You might find it surprising

  • but this is one of the biggest and most profitable businesses in Manzhouli.

  • Russia and China trade in many things,

  • oil, timber, electronics, you name it.

  • But it's humble vegetables that are moving fastest.

  • The reason has to do with politics.

  • In 2014, Russia cut ties with its fruits and vegetable suppliers

  • from the European Union and US.

  • A retaliation against sanctions over the Ukraine issue.

  • Russia has to buy its fruits and vegetables elsewhere.

  • That was when Putin turned to his old comrade in China.

  • This is probably the most vegetables I've seen in my life.

  • All of this is being sent to the Russian city of Irkutsk,

  • 1,500 kilometres away.

  • Four years ago, this journey would have taken seven days on the road.

  • But today, that travel time has been cut in half

  • because of all the new roads that have been built

  • due to the Belt and Road Initiative.

  • Chinese vegetables are moving faster than ever.

  • According to Russian government statistics,

  • Russia buys US$1 billion worth of vegetables,

  • and US$300 million worth of citrus fruits from China annually.

  • This company alone, Sen Fu Logistics,

  • exports US$50 million worth of fruits and vegetables

  • to Russia a year.

  • In 2018, their export volume to Russia grew 13%,

  • compared to the previous year.

  • Meng Lin is the woman in charge.

  • She moved to Manzhouli 25 years ago,

  • and Meng Lin has done very well.

  • There are a lot of awards here, congratulations.

  • Earlier today, I was able to check out your company,

  • and I have to say the place looked very busy.

  • Can you tell me a little bit about the history of your business?

  • Sure, thank you.

  • You were 21 years old when you first came to Manzhouli.

  • What was it that brought you here?

  • 25 years. Time flies.

  • What was Manzhouli like back then?

  • And it's all thanks to Russia-China ties?

  • We hear a lot about the Belt and Road Initiative.

  • How has it impacted your business?

  • Mangoes, once an exotic rarity across the border,

  • can now be bought in Russian supermarkets,

  • even in Siberia.

  • These foreign fruits are now much more accessible

  • thanks to the new trade links.

  • Just another example of how China's Silk Road

  • is changing the world.

  • To your successful partnership with Russia.

  • -Thank you... -You're welcome.

  • This is the boom town that is Manzhouli.

  • A Chinese city with an obvious Russian feel to it,

  • everywhere you turn.