Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
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Conservation Initiatives and China's Global Dam Industry
O NE ANALYTICAL thread running throughout this topic relates to the moral economy of wa-
ter and energy as well as to the relationships between different constituent groups that vie to
accomplish disparate management goals in the water sector. Scholars working in the mor-
al economy framework commonly point out that the process of economic globalization has
changed the game in fundamental ways. In particular, the current era of neoliberal develop-
ment—which favors market mechanisms over government control and advocates for eco-
nomic deregulation and cutting public expenditures on social programs—has reconfigured
the roles of states and markets, effectively disembedding the market from society. This trend
has captured the attention of social scientists. In a recent issue of American Anthropolo-
gist devoted to the moral economy concept, Marc Edelman argues: “Whether the state has
weakened under globalization or simply assumed new functions, it is often no longer the
principal focus of the counter-movement to the market. New supranational governance in-
stitutions—such as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank—have become major targets as well”
Chinese government agencies and hydropower corporations, faced with new social, polit-
ical, and environmental challenges in the domestic sphere, are not immune to these transna-
tional forces. The disembedding of the market from the state, driven by globalization, in-
volves two related stories: one in which global organizations become increasingly import-
ant players in conservation and river-basin-management efforts within China; and one in
which the Chinese dam-building industry, armed with the best expertise and financing in
the world today, looks outward to assume a broader role in development initiatives and re-
source extraction in lesser-developed countries and regions. In the process, various boundar-
ies—political, economic, cultural, and even biological—become blurred. In the struggle to
protect sensitive ecological areas, who can legitimately make a claim on the rich biologic-
al resources of northwest Yunnan? And what are the geopolitical, environmental, and social
implications of Chinese hydropower corporations, equipped with financial backing and dip-
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