For three decades the world has witnessed China’s fast economic development. In 2008 the Chinese government issued a 586 billion US dollars plan as an attempt to minimize the impact of the global financial crisis on the world’s second largest economy. The plan was to invest in infrastructure and social welfare throughout China.

The plan has been called the Second Great Leap Forward referring to Chairman Mao’s disastrous plan in the 40’s that cost millions of lives. It was an absurd period where all citizens were mobilized to refine metal.

The Chinese director Zhang Zambo managed in 2010 to get unique and unprecedented access to the implementation of the financial plan. For three years the director filmed the making of a section of a highway through a quiet village in Hunan, a province in central China. This is the province where Chairman Mao was born. The result is a rare insight to the impact the financial plan has had on a local community.

For three years Zhang Zambo followed the construction of the highway from start to finish. The main character throughout the film is Mr. Meng, the vice president of a private construction company responsible the construction of a part of the highway system. He appears whenever there is an argument or a fight. In China, a great number of people are working for “stabilization”, and Mr. Meng is leading such a position in the construction company.

Zhang Zambo has filmed the management team as well as the local residents and the workers.

The film follows local villagers and peasants that are forced to move due to land acquisition. Temples are moved and migrant workers experience lack of safety under very difficult working conditions. Most of the workers on the construction site are migrant Chinese workers that travel around the country to make a living.

The management of the construction company has been strongly supported by the Communist Party and the local authorities, but they want their share of the financial apple. As a consequence corruption and violence has become a common part of the making of the road.


From the director

“Along with China’s rapid economic growth, in the passed ten years, China has built more than 70,000 kilometers of new highways, making the total length 120,000 kilometers, the first place in the world. “China Miracle” and “China Speed” have caught the attention of the world again. For the government, this is great achievement, splendid glory, and symbol of modernization, marking that China has entered an age of high-speed development. How these roads were built? What are the untold stories behind the magical development?

I went to a highway construction site in early 2010 in search of an answer to my questions. At that time, the Chinese government was implementing its RMB¥ 4 trillion (US$ 586 billion) plan to pull up domestic demand and stimulate economy. Infrastructure including road construction has accounted a big percentage of investment. A new round of highway construction came like a ferocious tide. With this grand historical background, I spent almost four years documenting the complete process of one section of a highway built out of nothing in a small village, with close-up focus on intense changes that had been brought to the fate of individuals in this process, and detailed demonstration of problems and prices of a nation’s development. I’m trying to raise people’s reflection over our living condition and future progress from both macro and micro perspectives. So I hope “the road” is not only meaning a road, but also referring to the road China chose for its growth. I wish that The Road would be a fable of our time on China’s development path.”

– Zhang Zanbo