On April 8, 2017, Miss World Organisation and New Silk Road reached a strategic cooperation for the 2017 edition of Miss World pageant. This collaboration is not just a mere sponsorship; it has a deeper political meaning. “New Silk Road” refers to an initiative by Chinese Government for improving infrastructure across the trade routes between Asia and Europe, and it is also the name of a Chinese Corporate Group which is joining hands with Miss World pageant. So is there any nexus between the two? What kind of political impact this partnership between New Silk Road and Miss World might have on the competition? Let’s find out…
Silk Roads: The Old and The New –
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction connecting the East and the West. The Silk Road was not just vital for international trade; it was also important for promotion of art and culture. China has been a dominant player in the development of Silk Routs since the ancient times. Having been benefited from the wide network of old silk roads, many countries on the route decided to revive and modernize the same. Hence the new age silk roads are popularly known as the “New Silk Road”.
In September 2013, Chinese President Mr. Xi Jinping raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Essentially, the ‘belt’ includes countries situated on the original Silk Road through Central Asia, West Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Later China introduced a comprehensive initiative named “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) as the Country’s version of New Silk Road. Since the very introduction of this initiative, many countries raised concerns about the proposed corridors. India in particular was unhappy with China’s plans as the China-Pakistan corridor which forms part of the New Silk Road passes through “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir”. Also, India has been specifically excluded from the terrestrial New Silk Road. Some other countries have also shown concerns regarding China’s political ambitions behind the initiative
Miss World and New Silk Road:
The “New Silk Road Group” (NSR Group) that the MWO is dealing with is not the same as the New Silk Road initiative of the Chinese government. The NSR Group is a Company located in Beijing. The NSR Group also owns a modelling agency called “New Silk Road Fashion Organisation” which was responsible for discovering Miss World 2007, Zhang Zilin and which will be the host for Miss World 2017. The NSR Group has also been facilitating Chinese government for its various initiatives and there is clearly a link between the OBOR initiative and NSR’s decision of partnering with Miss World Pageant. Just like the old Silk Routes, the New Silk Road initiative is also not limited to just international trade. It is also going to help in promotion of art and culture of China. On August 26, 2016, The Belt and Road Media Community that consists of 41 media companies from 29 countries (as on the date on launch) was launched to facilitate the New Silk Road Initiative. This includes media companies from Britain, Singapore, France, Italy, Russia, the United States, Malaysia, Japan, South Africa and Zee Group from India among others. The aim of this media alliance is to produce TV content to promote history and future of China. The official list of all the participating companies has not been released by the Chinese officials. Miss World pageant fits perfectly in this agenda of NSR initiative. The news about Singapore playing a co-host for the pre-pageant activities further strengthens the connection between China’s New Silk Road initiative and Miss World pageant. Because Singapore is one of the most important economic hubs on the New Silk Road and it is a vital part of the New Silk Road Initiative of China. And with this in perspective, there appears a serious question as to whether the countries like India that have opposed the NSR will be treated fairly at Miss World 2017?
The NSR Group always had ambitions to create a global fashion event that can promote the brand of NSR as well as the Chinese culture. In November 2012, the NSR Group held its own version of Miss World pageant which was won by a model from Canada. It was supposedly in lines with the vision of Mr. Xi Jinping (then Vice President of China) to make the world know more about Chinese culture. Now that the NSR Group has joined has with the original Miss World pageant, one can expect that the core intention would remain unchanged.
There is nothing wrong in promoting a country’s culture by organizing an international event. In fact, promotion of tourism and culture is one of the main objectives of international pageantry. But it will definitely be wrong if such event gets murked with hidden political agendas. The direction Miss World is moving towards seems more than just promotion of local tourism. Last year when Miss Canada Anastasia Lin was finally allowed to compete in Miss World pageant, many reputed news outlets like Washington Post, Boston Globe and NY Times reported that there was still smog of Chinese influence on the pageant even though it was held thousands of miles away from China. In 2015, Richard Macauley and Heather Timmons reported in “Quartz” that a few years ago Ms. Morley got rid of the organization’s board to “make quick decisions whenever she needs to,” for making the path smoother for Chinese funds. And now with NSR Group and Miss World Organisation’s partnership in perspective, one can only pray that the pageant will not do business at the cost of the dreams of its contestants.
Author: Jinendra Aherkar