China’s One Belt, One Road exhibit in Atlanta

National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita exhibited 37 of his photos to retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo and Chinese admiral Zheng He from China to the Middle East and Europe at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta from March 20 to 29.

Michael Yamashita’s photos, illustrating both the ancient Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road, belong to China’s promotion of the One Belt, One Road economic initiative of President Xi Jinping. More than 40 countries and organizations have signed up in cooperation agreements with China to become a part of this network. After seeing Yamashita’s photos during a visit to the U.S. in 2015, Yan Bin 严彬, CEO of the Beijing-based Reignwood Group, which distributes the beverage Red Bull in China, bought the rights to 350,000 of Yamashita’s photos and sponsored a series of Silk Road photo exhibits in places such as Beijing, London, and Singapore.

Hou Chuang, vice chairman of media relations at Reignwood Group, says that the exhibits serve as great opportunities to educate people outside China about Chinese culture and history. As for President Carter, he played a key role in enabling China’s modern standing in the world. He recognized China diplomatically just as leader Deng Xiaoping was opening the country’s economy to the world in 1978.

Yamashita says the reasons behind the exhibit — from China’s ancient trade routes with the world to the “reform and opening up” that Jimmy Carter helped enable — all came together when he toured the Carter Library.