Why I enjoy China From Above TV series
Published: Nov 07, 2018 06:48 PM
Since drones were widely used to shot movies, filming China from the sky has become a fashion. Recently I watched Season 2 of China From Above, a documentary television series co-produced by China Intercontinental Communication Center, National Geographic Channel, NHNZ and Beach House Pictures, and got a new understanding of how to introduce China to the world.

In what way should a complex, diverse and rapidly changing China be presented to the world? Many Chinese and foreign documentary-makers are trying to find the answer.

Documentaries filmed by China used to focus on generality rather than details, visuals rather than connotations. But things now have changed. More documentaries have begun to attach great importance to telling stories in a sympathetic manner: Usually starting with a real person or event, they strive to lead the audience to ponder China deeply and comprehensively.

For such a diverse country as China, a multi-dimensional and meticulous observation is necessary. But confined by technology, observing China from the sky was almost a luxury in the past. The lens of drones now allows the audience to observe China and its changes from a top-down perspective, which, with China's magnificent and spectacular sceneries, produces stunning visual impacts.

The first episode of Season 1 was premiered on National Geographic Channel three years ago and received more than 1 million views on YouTube.

The newly shot Season 2 continued the style of the first season. By telling China's stories from the sky, it offers the audience a three-dimensional lens to observe China.

In China From Above Season 2, we enjoy a visual feast of spectacular landscapes moving along coastlines, rivers and mountains. But the cameras don't leave much time for the audience to drink in the beauty of nature. The eyes of the audience are quickly directed to the people living on the ground after a short bird's eye view and then the landscape of the sky becomes a background for the story on the ground.

In this way, we are presented with the lives of the Tibetan people on the rolling Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with snowcapped peaks. The newly renovated Potala Palace blends with the scene of a Tibetan family worshipping Buddha. A true Tibet is revealed to the audience: Even though life has changed, the tradition is still there.

On the sea east of Shanghai, large offshore cranes have installed dozens of windmills. The splendor of Rudong Intertidal Wind Farm has far surpassed that of the natural landscapes. Seeing them, people naturally link them to the development model of the country.

In the documentary, we also see a sea bridge across glittering waters connecting the three most dynamic Chinese cities in the region - Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao.

When the audience's imagination moves along the bridge with the flying lens, what will come to their mind? Is it the change brought by similar mega projects to people's work and lifestyle in the past 40 years? Or the development dynamics they will create in the future?

With the sky and earth, tradition and modernization, natural landscape and artificial construction presented, from east to west, south to north, what the audiences see are the changes of this country, as well as its dynamic stories and prospects filled with hardships.

From the barren yellow-brown land of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to the bristling buildings in Chongqing, the sharp contrast allows the audience to more accurately grasp China's position in the world and thus understand challenges the country will face. 

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily, and currently a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn. Follow him on Twitter @dinggangchina