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  • On this episode of China Uncensored,

  • Southeast Asian nations are pretty upset

  • about all China's dam projects.

  • Hi, welcome back to China Uncensored.

  • I'm your host, Chris Chappell.

  • And boy have I got a good dam story for you.

  • Because we're going to talk about

  • one of China's megaprojects:

  • reshaping the entire geopolitical-

  • environmental-economic landscape

  • of a large chuck of Southeast Asia.

  • Using a bunch of dams.

  • Plus strong-arm politics.

  • This is the Mekong River.

  • It's called the Lancang River in China.

  • It starts in Tibet,

  • and flows down through Myanmar,

  • Laos, Thailand, Cambodia,

  • and finally Vietnam,

  • where it empties out

  • into the South China Sea.

  • Which means both ends of the river

  • have been Chinese territory

  • since ancient times.

  • That last part is a joke.

  • Except...kind of not.

  • The Chinese Communist Party feels that

  • it has the strongest right to control the river.

  • Partly because China is the most upstream country,

  • which gives it the terrain advantage.

  • And partly because China

  • is bigger and stronger

  • than those other five little countries combined.

  • It could beat 'em up with

  • one river tied behind its back.

  • China has already built 7 hydropower dams

  • like this one along the upper Mekong River.

  • It has plans to build 21 more.

  • People living downstream are concerned,

  • because dams upstream mess up

  • the entire river's natural cycles.

  • And that affects the whole ecosystem.

  • The Mekong River is a huge economic resource

  • for the region.

  • It's home to one of the world's

  • most diverse fisheries,

  • second only to Brazil's Amazon River.

  • Over 60 million people

  • in the lower Mekong River basin

  • rely on the river for food,

  • water, and transportation.

  • And China's dams are causing

  • some serious dam problems.

  • For example,

  • in the summer of 2016,

  • Southeast Asia faced the worst drought

  • in a hundred years.

  • It had the biggest impact in Vietnam,

  • where it directly affected

  • half a million households,

  • causing rather serious problems,

  • like “a lack of drinking water,

  • food shortages,

  • and forced internal migration

  • to urban areas.”

  • Is this because of China's dams upstream?

  • Well, if you ask Chinese state-run media,

  • the droughts were actually caused by

  • the climate cycle known as El Niño.

  • Which in English translates asThe Niño.”

  • In other words, The Niño did it,

  • and it was totally not China's fault.

  • In fact, we should thank China.

  • Because after desperate requests from Vietnam,

  • China released a little bit of water

  • to alleviate that drought

  • which, again, was definitelydue to

  • the prolonged effects of El Niño.”

  • But if you ask, say, any scientist

  • they would tell you that Chinese dams

  • are at least partly to blame.

  • When China began damming the Mekong

  • and its upstream tributaries in the early 1990s,

  • scientists predicted the kinds of droughts

  • we're seeing today.”

  • Scientists predicted it,

  • the CCP ignored the data,

  • and went ahead with its dam projects anyway.

  • This kind of intentionally ignoring science

  • doesn't exactly bode well for the regime

  • that claims it wants to be a world leader

  • in tackling climate change.

  • But anyway,

  • even before China started building dams,

  • there was a need to collectively manage

  • issues related to the Mekong River,

  • since it's shared by so many countries.

  • They've come together in various forums

  • over the past 60 years.

  • And in 1995,

  • four of them established

  • the Mekong River Commission.

  • The Mekong River Commission

  • has been helpful,

  • though not ideal.

  • Partly because China

  • refused to participate.

  • Hey, I totally understand.

  • These meetings do not look exciting.

  • Worst way to spend an afternoon ever!

  • Except maybe that time I watched Battlefield Earth.

  • Butboring meetingsis not

  • the reason China opted out.

  • It's actually because The Chinese regime

  • didn't like the rules,

  • and preferred to set up its own

  • Mekong River group

  • with its own rules.

  • In November 2015,

  • China set up the awkwardly-titled

  • Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework

  • which sounds even more boring.

  • But it's actually about power.

  • It allows Beijing to sidestep

  • the Mekong River Commission's regulation

  • that dam proposals need to be discussed

  • by all the member nations

  • before they can be built.

  • Basically, the Chinese regime wanted to make sure

  • the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation framework

  • didn't require actual cooperation.

  • At least not between all the nations.

  • See, even though all six nations are members,

  • China emphasisesbilateral comprehensive

  • strategic partnerships.”

  • That is, one-on-one partnerships,

  • where China is one of the ones.

  • It's a classic CCPdivide and conquerstrategy.

  • China has dealt with Mekong countries

  • bilaterally so that these countries

  • are not able to unite and stand up to China

  • as a regional grouping.”

  • As another expert puts it,

  • If Beijing manages to achieve control

  • of the Mekong's development

  • it would quickly become a crucial artery

  • for China's rise and exportation of influence.”

  • This is not surprising.

  • Remember Xi Jinping's three and an half hour speech

  • that cured insomnia at

  • the 19th Party Congress last October?

  • How he rambled on about how China

  • should have more international influence?

  • Well, in just the past two years,

  • China has set aside billions of dollars

  • to support 45 Mekong River projects

  • in these countries.

  • For example,

  • China is helping fund a series

  • of at least three dams in Laos.

  • The first onedirectly ignored the recommendations

  • of the Strategic Environmental Assessment

  • but Laos went ahead with it anyway.

  • Because now that Laos has

  • financial support from China,

  • it can now flat out ignore the concerns

  • from Cambodia and Vietnam.

  • But if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

  • Because Cambodia is building its own dams.

  • Which, unfortunately,

  • come with their own dam problems.

  • They're also paid for with Chinese money.

  • So the Chinese regime has built

  • its own Southeast Asia cooperation group,

  • and it then works with each member country

  • one by one,

  • and promises each of them economic development.

  • Individually, each project is fairly limited.

  • But combined, they have a major impact

  • on an entire ecosystem

  • which includes a tiny part of China,

  • and huge parts of Myanmar,

  • Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

  • But don't worry,

  • nothing could possibly go wrong.

  • What?

  • That was a different dam

  • that burst in Laos.

  • Don't worry about it.

  • So what do you think?

  • Leave your comments below.

  • Once again, I'm Chris Chappell.

  • See you next time.

  • Hi, did you notice the use of clever puns in this episode?

  • Well, if you go to our website, ChinaUncensored.tv,

  • you can see all our episodes,

  • and more importantly,

  • all our puns.

  • Once again, that's ChinaUncensored.tv

On this episode of China Uncensored,

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How China Controls Southeast Asia’s Most Important River

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    zijun su posted on 2021/06/07
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