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Al Jazeera's landmark documentaries seek to engage, inform and inspire with a wide range of stories from around the world.

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    The China Complex (Part 2) | The Big Picture

    The China Complex (Part 2) | The Big Picture

    What is China? Where is it going? What is it going to do?

    The world's most populous country, an economy set to become the biggest in the world, a communist state, a developing nation, the world's oldest surviving civilisation at the cutting edge of a technological revolution, an authoritarian regime brutally suppressing its minority groups - China is many things to many people, but running through its core, like a continuous silk thread, is one central principle: order.

    The order really starts from within the family ... China is one of those cultures where relations are much more important and people are defined in a sense by roles.

    Professor Bin Wong, director of the China Institute, UCLA

    The Big Picture: The China Complex traces the roots of this principle to find how ancient philosophical models such as Legalism that promoted the strict, often brutal imposition of the law, and Confucianism, the moral bedrock of Chinese culture, have been the foundations of how China has been ordered for more than two and half centuries.

    The China Complex examines how they have been applied by ruling dynasties, nationalist republicans, communist revolutionaries all the way through to today's Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping. And at the heart of any leader's authority, we find a higher ideal: the Mandate of Heaven (tianming), legitimising the rule of emperors and paramount leaders alike.

    The suppression of Tibetan Buddhists and majority-Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have been uncompromising. Viewed through the prism of order, new light is shed on how such oppression serves the greater Chinese interest.

    Leaked documents detailing the state-sanctioned abuses perpetrated within so-called "vocational education camps" in Xinjiang point to a regime unable to accommodate any divergence from a rigid, long-instilled notion of order.

    Those seeking to stand apart from Han-majority China are beaten down, forced to assimilate with majority rule or suffer the consequences.

    "Xinjiang was gradually being transformed into a kind of a police state … It's absolutely alright for them to be Uighurs if they'd simply eat pork and drink alcohol. And preferably even smoke cigarettes like good Han Chinese citizens always do," says Professor Steve Tsang, director of China Institute, SOAS

    In Hong Kong, demands for greater democratic rights has been given short shrift by Beijing. What the protestors in Hong Kong have demanded does not fit into the Chinese Communist Party's notion of what China stands for - a deference to authority, a hierarchy of respect, an adherence to order.

    "In the minds of an authoritarian dictator, the last thing you do is back down and let the people win," says Professor Sharon Hom, New York University.

    As China is in the grip of an autocratic government, criticised for human rights abuses at home and imperial adventurism abroad, can the age-old ideas bleeding through China's historic rise also tell of how it may be set to fall?

    As The China Complex shows, to understand China today and China tomorrow, it is first to understand China of long ago.

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    • 48 Min.
    • video
    The Big Picture: The China Complex (Part 1)

    The Big Picture: The China Complex (Part 1)

    What is China? Where is it going? What is it going to do?

    The world's most populous country, an economy set to become the biggest in the world, a communist state, a developing nation, the world's oldest surviving civilisation at the cutting edge of a technological revolution, an authoritarian regime brutally suppressing its minority groups - China is many things to many people, but running through its core, like a continuous silk thread, is one central principle: order.

    "The order really starts from within the family ... China is one of those cultures where relations are much more important and people are defined in a sense by roles," says Professor Bin Wong, director of the China Institute, UCLA.

    The Big Picture: The China Complex traces the roots of this principle to find how ancient philosophical models such as Legalism that promoted the strict, often brutal imposition of the law, and Confucianism, the moral bedrock of Chinese culture, have been the foundations of how China has been ordered for more than two and half centuries.

    The China Complex examines how they have been applied by ruling dynasties, nationalist republicans, communist revolutionaries all the way through to today's Chinese Communist Party under Xi Jinping. And at the heart of any leader's authority, we find a higher ideal: the Mandate of Heaven (tianming), legitimising the rule of emperors and paramount leaders alike.

    The suppression of Tibetan Buddhists and majority-Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have been uncompromising. Viewed through the prism of order, new light is shed on how such oppression serves the greater Chinese interest.

    Leaked documents detailing the state-sanctioned abuses perpetrated within so-called "vocational education camps" in Xinjiang point to a regime unable to accommodate any divergence from a rigid, long-instilled notion of order.

    Those seeking to stand apart from Han-majority China are beaten down, forced to assimilate with majority rule or suffer the consequences.

    "Xinjiang was gradually being transformed into a kind of a police state … It's absolutely alright for them to be Uighurs if they'd simply eat pork and drink alcohol. And preferably even smoke cigarettes like good Han Chinese citizens always do," says Professor Steve Tsang, director of China Institute, SOAS

    In Hong Kong, demands for greater democratic rights has been given short shrift by Beijing. What the protestors in Hong Kong have demanded does not fit into the Chinese Communist Party's notion of what China stands for - a deference to authority, a hierarchy of respect, an adherence to order.

    "In the minds of an authoritarian dictator, the last thing you do is back down and let the people win," says Professor Sharon Hom, New York University.

    As China is in the grip of an autocratic government, criticised for human rights abuses at home and imperial adventurism abroad, can the age-old ideas bleeding through China's historic rise also tell of how it may be set to fall?

    As The China Complex shows, to understand China today and China tomorrow, it is first to understand China of long ago.

    Source: Al Jazeera

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    • 48 Min.
    • video
    Uncomfortably Numb: Inside Gaza's Opioid Addiction Crisis | REWIND

    Uncomfortably Numb: Inside Gaza's Opioid Addiction Crisis | REWIND

    The Gaza Strip - at points just 10km wide - is a narrow piece of land along the eastern Mediterranean coast. Its Palestinian population is sealed behind a separation barrier and tightly controlled checkpoints.

    Gaza is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians - half of them under the age of 15. Unemployment is among the highest in the world and every day is a struggle to survive.

    Thousands of young people regularly risk their lives protesting their occupation by Israel along the border fence.

    But there is a lesser-known unintended consequence of the occupation: opioid addiction.

    In 2010, Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad travelled to Gaza and found that more and more young people were turning to prescription drugs to escape from the harsh realities of their lives.

    In the underground tunnels between Egypt and Gaza - where lifelines including food and clothes are smuggled into the blockaded strip - Al Jazeera found that a dangerous drug, Tramadol (or Tramal as it is known in Gaza), was also slipping through.

    The dangerously addictive painkiller is illegal without a prescription, but a growing number of Gazans were getting hooked on it, and going to extreme means to get it.

    "I buy fake prescriptions," Khaled al-Jarah, a long-term drug user, told Al Jazeera at the time. "If I don't get this prescription there are other ways to get the pills. Dealers bring in boxes of them through the tunnels."

    Psychologist Dr Samir al-Zaqout treats addicts at Gaza's Community Mental Health Programme, one of the few places they are able to go for help.

    "Most of the addicts are between the ages of 18 and 30 ... Those who are supposed to build our future are the most affected," he told Al Jazeera at the time.

    "If the number of cases I have seen are 150, there are hundreds of others that I have not seen and who would never seek the help of a doctor. Why? Because we live in a traditional society that fears the stigma attached to mental illness. And addiction is not just considered to be a mental health issue. It's seen as even more serious."

    Almost a decade on, Rewind returned to Gaza where Dr al-Zaqout told us that most users are still reluctant to come forward to be treated at the facility.

    "People don't go to therapy or to a psychologist because they are afraid on two counts; they're scared of the Resistance labelling them as collaborators and they're also afraid of the associated stigma within society," he said.

    With Gaza's political and humanitarian situation deteriorating further in recent years, and with a new upsurge of violence at the border, the painkiller problem has also worsened. Although authorities clamped down on Tramadol, other drugs, including Lyrica and Fioricet, have gained popularity.

    "Now it is smuggled to Gaza through all ports and, consequently, the Strip has been drowned with drugs," said Dr al-Zaqout.

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    • 25 Min.
    • video
    Lensa Mekonnen: Ethiopia's Tourism Revival | My Ethiopia

    Lensa Mekonnen: Ethiopia's Tourism Revival | My Ethiopia

    "My Ethiopia is our long-lasting traditions and cultures. My Ethiopia is our family-centred lifestyle. My Ethiopia is our authenticity," says Lensa Mekonnen, the CEO of state-owned Tourism Ethiopia.

    Since coming to power in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has appointed women to 50 percent of his cabinet posts and promised unprecedented political and socioeconomic reforms.

    Lensa is finishing up her last few weeks on the job, and she is determined that tourism - which can boost the economy, champion local culture, and reinvent the country's public image - will be part of that reform.

    "We have always been known for the incidents of the past where we had an unfortunate famine where we lost millions. That has been stuck in people's heads. And we have not done enough to change that," she says.

    Ethiopia's tourism sector supports 2.2 million jobs, and is vital to the East African nation's development transformation. Lensa sees untapped potential in historic sites that are little known or have fallen into disrepair.

    "There is so much history and so much culture that we have that we have not used," says Lensa. "If we want tourists to come and visit, then we need to build our infrastructure ... Development means that communities get the benefit out of it ... that our youth actually have jobs ... it means a real change in our economic game, so I want to see the resources developed."

    Tourism in Ethiopia grew by 48 percent in 2018, far surpassing the global average of 3.9 percent. But as Lensa strives for change, she still faces some pushback.

    "My biggest challenge is the resistance to the transformation agenda. We are going through a transformation and there is a painful layer where the status quo, the comfort zone, is going to go away. So saying we are not doing business as usual, we are going to change."

    We follow Lensa as she meets officials, community leaders and tourist guides to discuss strategies to develop Ethiopia's tourism industry, visits her family, and scavenger-hunts for sites that can be reinvested as tourist attractions. And all the while we see how Lensa's obligation to her family, her culture, and her people gives her the energy to - day by day - try and build a brighter future for her country.

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    • 25 Min.
    • video
    Losing Louisiana: Life in the Disappearing Mississippi Delta | REWIND

    Losing Louisiana: Life in the Disappearing Mississippi Delta | REWIND

    Every year, communities on the Gulf of Mexico risk being swept away by the elements.

    In 2005, the US state of Louisiana was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm which breached levies and flooded the city of New Orleans. In July 2019, tropical storm Hurricane Barry again forced thousands to evacuate as heavy rainfall brought widespread flooding.

    But hurricanes are not the only problem Louisiana is facing. It has been losing land to the Gulf of Mexico at an alarming rate, caused in part by oil exploration and made worse by rising sea levels from climate change.

    It has threatened the unique and ancient way of life on the bayous as those communities now face the prospect of having to relocate to higher ground.

    In 2009, we visited the wetlands of the Mississippi Delta, where Cajun people had lived on the land for generations and were struggling to keep up with change. As marshlands were turned into open water, communities were retreating inland, pushed back by the waters that were once their lifeblood.

    Those in the shrimping business also suffered as salt water infiltrated the delicate wetlands and less freshwater was available to grow shrimp. That, combined with competition from foreign companies, meant that they had to work hard for less profit.

    Windell Curole, the general manager of the South Lafourche Levee District, described how there was precious little time to save communities.

    "It's not only losing the future, it's losing the past," he said.

    Ten years on, Rewind returns to southern Louisiana to revisit Curole and others still battling climate change.

    Curole takes us to a dock where nearby a cemetery and marshes once stood. Now, there is just open water.

    He says that only six people remain in the community, down from the roughly 30 residents 10 years ago.

    We also visit Phyliss Melancon, whose family has fished in the area for generations.

    "Other areas do things and they are preserving their land and here it's not. There is no future, no more future for residents. I don't know, it hurts. It hurts to know that you have to move," she says.

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    • 25 Min.
    • video
    Muruts Beyene: Living in the Ethiopia-Eritrea Borderland | My Ethiopia

    Muruts Beyene: Living in the Ethiopia-Eritrea Borderland | My Ethiopia

    "My Ethiopia is my homeland. My Ethiopia is my blood. My Ethiopia is the country I was wounded for," says Muruts Beyene who lives in the Tigray region of northeast Ethiopia.

    A veteran of the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea war, Muruts spent years defending the territory he lives in from being usurped. But now, after new political reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, part of his Irob community may be at risk.

    "I live near the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, in an area which has been promised to Eritrea," he says.

    Although the war officially ended with the signing of a peace deal more than 18 years ago, countless disagreements and scrimmages over the disputed territories have continued.

    Since coming to power in April 2018, Abiy has promised unprecedented reforms. Part of this involves agreeing to relinquish some borderland to Eritrea - including sections of Irob land where Muruts and his community reside.

    Many Ethiopians welcomed Abiy's gesture as a way of allowing Ethiopia to move forward. However, others see the move as a betrayal of their contributions to the country, as well as a threat to Irob language, culture and identity.

    "Since Prime Minister Abiy came to power, for the Irob, there has been no peace," Muruts says. "The politics are a mess and we are affected."

    At least 80,000 people were killed during the Ethiopia-Eritrea war.

    Pointing to the mountains near the border, Muruts says: "That mountain you see is a graveyard, full of people from different nations and ethnicities who died and were buried there."

    "If the land is going to be given away, what were all those people sacrificed for?" he asks.

    Muruts' Irob community is a minority ethnic group of about 30,000 people. Already small in number, a redefined border would mean that some of their tiny population would be split between two countries.

    Muruts is desperate for his community to stay together, and worries the planned division will threaten his business as well as the survival of his people.

    "We Irob are like brothers with one church, one house," he says. "Dividing us in two will hurt the Irob nation."

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    • 25 Min.

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