Triads, the Chinese Mafia Conquering the World

Written and directed by Antoine Vitkine

The most powerful mafia organisations in the world, the mythical Chinese triads are shrouded in mystery. How have these criminal organisations, which appeared three centuries ago, had such an impact on the history of China? Why are they now established on every continent? What is their relationship with the Chinese government? During several months, Antoine Vitkine filmed members of the triads, from rank-and-file soldiers to fearsome godfathers. For the first time, this breathtaking documentary series plunges deep into the world of the triads. It reveals their influence on the global economy and geopolitics.


Episode 1 - Birth of an octopus

Appeared in the 17th century in the form of "secret societies", the triads gradually evolved into criminal organisations. Western colonisation represented a tremendous opportunity for them. Following the "opium wars", they became involved in drug trafficking and grew richer. They became powerful enough to influence the founding of the Republic of China. After the Second World War, Mao's rise to power forced the triads to leave the country. But they didn't go far: to Taiwan and Hong Kong, where they lived out their golden years...

Episode 2 - Chinese Eldorado

The handover of Hong Kong and Macao to China offered the triads the opportunity to make a pact with their old Communist enemy. They offer their support to the government in return for a substantial share in the country's economic development. Although they are officially repressed in mainland China, the Chinese Communist Party is keen on their money and their entrepreneurial spirit. The overly conspicuous gangsters gave way to more discreet businessmen. But the triads end up representing a danger for Xi Jinping's China.

Episode 3 - Serving the Red Empire

Xi Jinping wants to make his country the world's leading power. To continue enriching themselves, the triads must serve his ambitions. They support his policies in Taiwan and Hong Kong, prosper along the Silk Roads, set up lawless zones in South-East Asia, establish themselves in the Pacific and infiltrate Western economies. It is no coincidence that the port of Vancouver is the gateway to a drug, fentanyl, that is ravaging North America. The triads evolve over time, but as an integral part of Chinese society, they are not about to die out...

Directed by :
Antoine Vitkine
Written by :
Antoine Vitkine
Produced by :
YAMI 2 - Christophe Nick and Antoine Boukobza
Broadcast :
Year of broadcast :
Duration :
3 x 60 min

It might sound like one of Hong Kong director Johnnie To's most captivating Mafia films, if it weren't so real. In a three-part investigation, Antoine Vitkine leads a breathtaking plunge into the mysterious world of the triads - Le Monde

Antoine Vitkine explores this complex subject with an astonishing sense of narrative and vulgarization. It interweaves astonishing archive footage and extracts from Hong Kong action films glorifying local gangsters, and reveals, beneath the glittering shop window, the chilling reality of trafficking (drugs, prostitution, racketeering, etc.), ultra-violence and democracies under threat. - Télé

Captivating, embodied and conducted across the planet, his documentary is exceptional because it goes back to the origins of the movement in the 17th century and quickly focuses on the lucrative activities of these groups - Libération

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