China: World Factory and next football country?


With my camera, I travel through
the heart of China, from north to south. On my journey, I try to find out what
it’s like to live and work in today’s China. Where is this gigantic country headed? And what do ordinary Chinese people
appreciate or value? through the heart of China We’ve arrived in the area where China’s
rise as the factory of the world began. This is where 35 years ago a political
U-turn was made in state policy. We owe our progress to Deng Xiaoping. The Chinese could start making money,
and they lost no time doing so. So you’ll be a millionaire?
– I’m a billionaire, in Chinese money. Everything that’s marketable
is made here. Even football players. the factory of the world
episode 6 These days, Chinese president
Xi Jinping is on every front page. At the last Party Congress, he became
the most powerful leader since Mao. Which means in practice:
What Xi wants, Xi gets. The clearest example of this is football,
which Xi loves. He even expressed his wish
and objective… …to make China a top football country
by 2050. They should reach
the World Cup final by then. China invests more than any other country
in its national league. With transfer fees of hundreds of millions. But can the Chinese
actually play football? And is China as engineerable
as Xi wants? China doesn’t have a football tradition. 14 years ago, there wasn’t even
a national football league. And in all my years here, I’ve never met
anyone who can actually kick a ball. We’re not going to the stadium now,
but to the training pitch. It was already in use
when I was a little boy. Did you train here back then?
– Yes. Peng Weiguo is the Chinese
Marco van Basten, you could say. A big name in the 1990s,
and a hero of the Chinese national team… …although they weren’t
World Cup material back then. That’s the stadium right there. Is that the Evergrande stadium?
– Yes. Did you grow up here as well?
– Yes, I used to train here. That was in 1987,
so 30 years ago already. The stadium has also been here
since 1987? Yes, but back then
those buildings weren’t there yet. In 1987, there wasn’t really
a professional league in China yet. There was a national league,
but it was extremely amateurish. But now there’s corporate sponsorship,
and our leaders support it too. There are a lot of fans,
and many kids play football. I’m sure that Chinese football
will be very big. Better than the Dutch national team?
– Yes, we’ll definitely be better. You sound very sure of yourself.
– China is huge, we have more fans. And there are more people
who play football. But are any of them talented?
– The level is still low. But slowly but steadily,
we’re getting better. So you’re pretty confident?
– Yes, very. I’ve heard that China has set the goal… …of qualifying for the World Cup by 2050. Or even becoming world champion.
Is that feasible? We always want to qualify
for the World Cup. Really?
– Yes. That goal is the same
as for the Dutch national team. Abroad, people are saying
that the level is still very low in China. They even say that Chinese football
is hopelessly bad. It’s true that the national team
isn’t doing all too well. We need time to improve the quality. This time we didn’t qualify,
but we’re doing our best… …to be there at the next World Cup. Hopefully we’ll meet you there then. I hope so too.
I hope we’ll get another chance. Shit. I’m injured.
– Did you break your glasses? They’re okay.
– Are you sure? No, this isn’t Oxford.
It’s Chinese football’s breeding ground. The class of lions greets their coach.
Hello, coach. At the brand new
Evergrande boarding school… …hundreds of football talents
are being prepped for the real thing. Mountains have been moved for this,
literally. There used to be mountains here,
but they excavated those. Hello. How old are they?
– Twelve. They’re already very good. They’re taking their playing very seriously. They’re very focused.
– On the game? The programme we follow here
is based on the Spanish method. Their way of playing and training
is very different. Chinese children are often raised in a very
traditional way, which has a huge impact. They’re very different
from European children. In what way?
– They’re less creative. Chinese children are very disciplined.
They’re much more reactive. They’re used to doing
what their parents or teachers say… …instead of thinking
and deciding for themselves. That’s why we’ve hired Spanish coaches… …to change their mentality. We try to control them as little as possible,
so they’ll start thinking for themselves. Sometimes they make a wrong decision… But at least they’re using their brains. They learn to be creative this way. If we coach them too much,
they’re afraid they’ve made a mistake. Now we’re telling them
that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m amazed how big the complex is. That has to do with the ambition
of the owner of the Evergrande Group. He’s hoping that this will help
to raise the level of Chinese football. The level has to go up?
– That’s right. China is performing well in many areas… …but our football hasn’t reached
the European level yet. It’s an expression of his patriotism.
That’s why he’s investing so much. So much money?
– Yes. A few fields further
we see the foreign coaches at work. They don’t speak a word of Chinese,
but it’s not a problem. Okay, close in.
– Fangdong, Fangdong. Keep running, Laojiang. Inside, Haitao.
– Haitao, play together. Run fast.
– Look at the ball. Haitao, Haitao.
– Look at who’s next to you. No, behind.
Coordinate better. Number 44 should be further back,
and Haitao should move in more. Yulei, stay on your position.
There are defenders as well. Do you understand it now? When you receive a back pass,
what should you do? Keep it simple. Go ahead. Are all these players only children,
due to the one-child policy? Yes.
– Do you think that also has an effect… …on the way they play football? The way they were raised
definitely affects their performance. When they were little,
they were always surrounded by adults. That’s why they also think
it’s all about them on the pitch. When they just got here, we let them play
in teams of seven or eight. They were all screaming:
Give me the ball. But they wouldn’t take any initiative
to go get the ball. So we had to change
their way of thinking. So the one-child policy
has determined their behaviour? I think so, yes. I’m sure that that policy
has had an effect… …on a team sport such as football. How did the practice go?
– Alright, I guess. What didn’t go so well then? I can’t tell you,
because it will sound too arrogant. You can’t be proud of yourself?
Who told you you can’t? My father and mother. It shouldn’t be all about you?
– Yes, I’m not supposed to think that. But I can’t say I’m no good either,
because then I’ll sound insecure. Do you have a goal? Yes, to win for the glory of my country.
– To make your country proud of you? My father told me that Chinese teams
used to be very bad. We’ll have to make sure
that China can go to the World Cup. My father wants me to join
the national team eventually. If I’m selected, he can see me on TV.
– And then? He hopes that my twin brother and I
can contribute to our country And you’ll participate in the World Cup?
– Yes. That has to be our dream. We’re learning from Spanish and German
coaches how to play football very well. They show us videos
to speed up our development. Then we can end up in the national team.
– That’s great. My father says
it’s an honour to be selected. He told me it was my grandfather’s dream
to build this country. All of this for your country’s glory?
– My grandfather was in the army. He also fought for his country. He hopes that we will also be able
to contribute to our country… …even if we won’t be doing it
on the battlefield. My grandparents are proud of me
and my twin brother. When our neighbours hear
we’re coming home, they’re very happy. Then they say: The stars are back.
– Really? That’s nice. I still doubt if you can start
a football culture from scratch. But in China, football is just an industry. With a lot of money and a few bulldozers
you can build a football player factory. And it’s not the first time for the Chinese
to set up an industry in no time. The car industry, for instance.
Car factory GAC is a one-hour drive away. Ten years ago, it didn’t exist yet. In 2009, there were only grasslands
and swamps here. It looks amazing. I’m visiting one of the biggest
Chinese car manufacturers. I really want to take pictures in the factory,
but I have to meet the CEO first. Instead of letting me interview him,
they sent me a list in advance… …of questions that I have to ask.
Here, have a look. They didn’t just give me the questions,
but the answers as well. First the list was six questions long.
But then I heard he was busy. Now there are only two left, but I think it
has to do with the length of the answers. I’m looking forward to it. Hello, Mr Zhang. Nice to meet you.
– Hello. These are the cars?
– Yes, these are all our own models. In 2016, we sold 320,000 units
of this model. Really?
– Yes. And since it was introduced in 2015,
we’ve already sold 700,000 of it. And that model over there is the most
popular car in China at the moment. I have to check my list of questions,
because I forgot my script. I think the question is how we
became so successful in nine years. I can only answer you in Chinese. How did GAC Trumpchi manage
to become so successful in nine years? Okay, I’ll give you my personal opinion,
in brief. We were founded in 2008,
and in 2011 we started sales. Up to and including 2016,
we sold almost 400,000 cars a year. At a state-owned company in China
you also get state-owned answers. I’ve briefly explained
how our quality system works… That was a very long story. Actually, it was the longest story
anyone has ever told me. But it’s still impressive. 40 years ago,
China didn’t have a car industry at all. And now this factory alone produces
a brand new car every 20 seconds. Do you want to take a group photo of us?
– Of course. This foreigner is going to help us. One, two, three… Not bad.
I’ve taken three. Thank you.
– You’re welcome. Does everyone want a picture with him?
– Yes. Deng Xiaoping was a good man.
– He was? How so? The pioneer of reform.
– Of opening the market? Without him, there would be no today. No today?
– Then we would have never got this far. There wouldn’t be a market economy.
– That’s right. Without Deng Xiaoping
we would still be poor right now. Our life is good now,
and China will be a global player again. Why is his statue here in Shenzhen? Shenzhen is a special economic zone,
chosen by him. It was the first special economic zone
that he designated. And why especially here? Because it’s close to Hong Kong,
a good international location. It was an experiment. If it became a
success, the whole country would follow. So he was a visionary?
– He definitely was. He made the Chinese rich. And our national economy
is stronger now. He was the one who experimented with
socialism and capitalism in one country. One country, two systems. Is that really possible?
– It sure is. Okay, goodbye.
– Thank you. All Chinese banknotes
still feature Mao’s face. But Chinese people could become rich
thanks to his successor, Deng Xiaoping. That man.
He turned China into a market economy. As a result, this entire area
became the factory of the world. What was Shenzhen like 30 years ago?
– It was a fishing village. A fishing village?
– It grew so much because of the reform. What a huge change.
– Yes. Chinese civilisation is 5000 years old. As long as we preserve our culture,
our nation will become stronger. How did the Chinese get rich? Through hard work, courage,
determination, optimism and wisdom. So this is where it all started. In 1980, Deng Xiaoping drew a large
circle around this village on the map. Factories had to be built here,
as many as possible. For the villagers, it meant that their land
was suddenly worth a fortune. This is the new district of Hubei village.
This district was built in 1982. I’ve always lived in the old village. A lot has changed here since then?
– What exactly do you mean? The development of Shenzhen. The development has been huge
over the last 20, 30 years. It’s as different as night and day. This is the most rapidly developed area
in the world. Today, Shenzhen is far ahead
of the rest of China. Right now, we’re planning the
transformation for the next ten years. The world’s tallest building
will be built here. Today and tomorrow
we remember our ancestors. This is the head of our village. Who is this?
– Hello, they’re from the Netherlands. I’m from the Netherlands.
I work for Dutch TV. What are you doing here today? We’re preparing a large banquet
for tomorrow. Shall I give you a tour?
– That would be nice, thank you. The plan started in 1981. Where is the old village?
– Over there. This road is the border
with the old village. What is this, a community centre?
– Yes, a service centre for the district. You must be very busy, right? I’ve invited more than 10,000 people
to the banquet. If you come back in ten years,
this tower will be here. What tower?
– This one here. It will be even taller
than the 828-metre tower in Dubai. What do you mean?
– This will be the world’s tallest building. The world’s tallest building will be here. It will be 830 metres high,
so higher than the one in Dubai. Really? What a huge change.
– Yes. It will be the most prestigious
real estate project in China. The most prestigious project in the world,
here in Hubei. Now the name of our village
will live on forever. You really think so?
– Yes, I’m sure. In Dubai, it’s named after the city.
This will be the Hubei tower. Are you serious?
– Yes, the Huarun Centre Hope Tower. Really?
That’s great. When construction starts, does that mean
all these buildings will be demolished? Yes, it will all be gone.
We want a brand new city. But where will you live? After construction is finished,
we’ll come back here. So we’ll still be living here. Did you approve of this project?
– Yes, we had to. This is progress. We’ll get a new village
in return for the old one. They’ve already started demolishing.
– Yes, it’s part of the new development. This part here as well?
– Yes, everything. So that huge tower will be built here?
– Yes, a little bit further. This will all be gone?
– It’s part of the project. This area is part of it. That’s my father’s apartment,
on the first floor. My parents still live there.
– And you live on the 7th floor, right? Yes, we own this building. In the 1980s,
we built a four-storey block of flats. In 2009, we replaced it with a
seven-storey one, to get more rent. What was here before the 1980s? Before 1980, there were fish ponds here,
for fish farming. Before the economic reform,
it was all about fish and rice here. Over here,
we grew vegetables back then. Right here?
– Yes, and later we built houses on it. That’s more profitable
than growing vegetables. So that’s why we started building houses.
– I understand. It’s hard to imagine that there were
rice fields and fish ponds here. Before the reform,
we were vegetable and fish farmers. Growing rice and vegetables
is hard, poorly paid work. We didn’t have enough food and clothing. But now that we have enough money,
we have a better life. With every step
these narrow alleys get darker. And with every corner we turn,
we go back ten years in time. It’s embarrassing for us
to be walking here. In a few years, it will be beautiful here. It’s very dark here.
A bit creepy. This is actually a village within a city. Suddenly we see houses
that seem to have been here forever. Both my guides were born there. What kind of houses are these?
– This is also the old village. How old are these houses?
– This part is more than 500 years old. These houses are 300 years old.
– Seriously? And these houses as well.
– And those? Yes, those too.
– Really? This temple right here was rebuilt in 1804. We don’t know exactly when it was built,
but it was rebuilt in 1804. This is our temple. Here it says:
Temple of the Hua Yue Zhang family. Those are our ancestors,
who built this city. In a few months,
this skyline will look totally different. A part of the old village will be preserved,
but the rest will be torn down yet again. This time to make way
for the world’s tallest tower. Speaking of engineerability. But certain old village traditions
are still kept alive. The next day, hundreds of volunteers
are busy with huge pans and fires. I thought I had misheard him, but they’re
really making food for 10,000 people. Wow, these things are huge.
What’s in here? It’s very big.
We use it to make soup. These are the ovens,
which are wood-fired. Is this the oven?
– Yes. These ovens are huge.
But they have to be, with 10,000 guests. They’re preparing
the big banquet right now. Good grief. There are a lot of intestines in that pan. It’s a speciality of our village. Here they’re putting the food in bowls.
– So this is the real Hubei banquet? Yes, all kinds of dishes
are served together in one bowl. That way, the flavours are mixed,
which is delicious. It’s delicious?
– Yes, I’ll let you have a taste. They’re mixing all kinds of flavours. Are you getting hungry yet? How many bowls will you prepare today?
– 800. Wow, a roast pig.
– Have you ever tried that? So many ingredients.
– Yes, duck, pork… I see it has already started. You can join any table
if you want to eat. I was wondering: Is the village of Hubei
actually a kind of company? Yes.
– It is? And so everyone has a share in it?
– Yes. I’m shareholder, village chief
and party secretary. You’re everything? That building is mine, for instance.
– The whole building is yours? You didn’t say that yesterday. You said you lived on the 7th floor
and your father on the first. But you didn’t say anything else. I said: I live on the 7th
and I rent out the rest. I guess I missed that part. That’s very smart of you. But didn’t president Xi say:
Houses are to live in, not for speculation? I live in my house, and I offer others
a place to live as well. Only the original inhabitants of Shenzhen
are allowed to have these properties. All the villagers received a building plot.
Every son gets a piece of land. That’s the tradition.
If a son marries, he gets a building plot. So we live on one floor
and rent out the rest. That’s how we make extra money.
It’s our income on top of our salary. In our village,
rent is the main source of income. The biggest source of income.
– I understand. Will the price per square metre go up
once construction is done here? It will definitely go up. Will it double?
– The rent will definitely double. The price will be three to five times higher. I own 2000 square metres.
– You do? Does that mean you’ll be making
a whole lot of money? At 13,000 euros per square metre,
it’ll now be worth around 25 million euros. You understand?
– Yes. And this applies to which people? To you?
– Yes, I’m one of those people. Really? Congratulations.
– Yes. So you’ll be a millionaire?
– I’m a billionaire, in Chinese money. When it’s about China’s engineerability,
the sky is literally the limit here. Looking down on all those villagers, many
of whom will never have to work again… …an image from the comic books
of Asterix and Obelix comes to mind. Tables full of happy villagers, partying
and bingeing until deep in the night. But back to the football:
can they play or can’t they? It’s an important match.
A lot of security. Who’s playing whom? Tonight, Evergrande is playing
against Guizhou. This is the biggest match of the season,
because if we win… …this will be our seventh championship
in a row. Really?
– Yes, the seventh in a row. Hello. Are these fans as well?
– Yes. Let’s go inside. Let’s go to our section. How many spectators will be here?
– 60,000. What are you going to do now?
– We’ll start hanging some banners. If we win tonight,
there will be a big ceremony here. This is the best-attended match
in all of China. That’s why we’re nervous, and why we’re
putting in even more effort for this match. I’m very nervous. If our club wins again,
we’ll write football history in China. Things are not the same as when
I was young. We’re living in a great time. Everything around us
is growing to a higher level. Since the National Congress is taking
place right now, can you explain to me… …why president Xi
is so crazy about football? He’s placing a lot of emphasis
on raising the level. I’d rather not comment on president Xi. But when a country becomes stronger
and gains more international recognition… …this is thanks to the economy, to science
and technology, but also thanks to sport. Chinese people have always been good
at sports with tiny balls, like table tennis… …and badminton. But in sports that involve a big ball,
like basketball and football… …we haven’t reached
the world’s highest level yet. In that sense, we haven’t kept pace… …with our economic
and technological growth. That’s why, if you look at it
from a distance, we have to… …find a way to bridge that gap
with the sports world. If you look at it
from a national strategic perspective… …this might play a role.
So that’s what’s behind this policy. Guangzhou. Offside. Much more impressive than the game
on the pitch is the red army around it. Of course Evergrande will be
seven-time champion. Because they take in the most millions
of investment right now. I have a theory about football in China. For 30 years now, these people
have only seen prosperity grow. But one day,
that economic growth will end. For a large part of the people, this will
mean their very first economic setback. China will need a common bond then. Something that unites the population
in a sense of togetherness. In Europe, we found the best solution
for this a long time ago. Give the people football,
and they will kiss the flag. Because nationalism
is engineerable as well. In the final stage of my journey,
I cross the border to Macau. And I learn that Xi’s plans could have
a huge impact on all Chinese citizens. It will be just like the book 1984.
There will be cameras everywhere. Want to see more?
Go to vpro.nl/china There, I’ll show you a city of millions
waiting for inhabitants.

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