A Profile of Dams in China

Shui Fu
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The following is from the just-published book about the Three Gorges Dam, The River Dragon Has Come , edited by Dai Qing. The book's dozen essays describe the many awesome social and economic problems arising from the world's most grandiose dam project. This excerpt describes the political and historical context behind China's dam-building frenzy. The book will be available from International Rivers shortly. 

There were virtually no large-scale water projects in China before 1949. But in the ensuing years, and especially in the years during and since the Great Leap Forward (1958-60), the Chinese Communist Party has heavily promoted dam construction as part of a massive national campaign. In less than forty years all of China's major rivers have been dammed. In the mindset of the Chinese people, dam projects became more than just another kind of construction project; the campaigns promoting dam construction equated harnessing rivers with developing the country and mandated absolutely that citizens demonstrate their "positive support" and "political enthusiasm" for the projects. Under the dictatorship of the Party, the goal of "harnessing water" became equated with "harnessing people."

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