The China Quarterly

Powershed Politics: Yunnan Hydropower under Great Western Development 1

Darrin  Magee 

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This article uses hydropower development on the Lancang (upper Mekong River) and Nu (upper Salween River) as a lens for exploring institutional change and decision-making processes among governmental units and hydropower companies under the Great Western Development campaign. Scholars of the campaign tend to focus on central government policies and individual provinces' responses, and on the campaign's role as a central-state-strengthening project aimed at curbing regionalist tendencies. Large-scale hydropower development in Yunnan, however, is a complex affair involving national and provincial power companies, regional grids and governmental units at many levels. Conceptualizing Yunnan as the “powershed” of Guangdong, I argue that the Western Development campaign paves the way for increasingly strong interprovincial linkages between Guangdong and Yunnan that are not necessarily central-state-strengthening, and that consideration of such linkages should be fundamental to any attempt to understand the impacts of China's western development.

(Published Online March 24 2006)


1 This research was supported by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the Jackson School of International Studies, and China's National Key Basic Research Development Plan 973 (#2003CB415105).