Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
the social and ecological costs of hydropower development against other imperatives such
as energy security and integrated river-basin management? I use two main analytical con-
cepts—statemaking and the moral economy—to examine these interrelated questions. In
what follows, I briefly introduce these concepts and discuss how they help elucidate the
current controversy surrounding hydropower development.
Despite its location in the remote southwest, Yunnan has been influenced by Han Chinese
dynastic expansion for centuries if not millennia. Indeed, peripheral places such as these,
endowed with the natural resources required by a growing empire, have played key roles
in the construction and maintenance of the Chinese state. This process of contact between
core areas and peripheral areas—sometimes peaceful, sometimes conflictive—can be seen
as part of the process of statemaking (Sivaramakrishnan 1999; Scott 1998). As James Scott
observes in his seminal topic Seeing Like a State , “Contemporary development schemes …
require the creation of state spaces where the government can reconfigure the society and
economy of those who are to be 'developed' ” (1998:185). A growing body of work on the
policies and politics of statemaking encourages us to examine critically how states are built
and constantly shaped through geopolitical, cross-cultural, and sometimes discursive nego-
tiation (Michaud 2010; Sivaramakrishnan 1999).
In this sense, statemaking is a development path characterized by modernist ambitions;
it entails an essential faith in the power of human knowledge systems—including science,
technology, and policy—to beget better and better futures. In the West, modernism's high-
water mark was perhaps the middle of the twentieth century, when many of the benefits of
scientific progress were realized but before the critical, reflective trend of postmodernism
took hold. By contrast, Chinese states have been modernist in their tendencies since at least
the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. -220 C.E. ), with its trade routes into Central Asia, its uniform
system of weights and measurements, its finely tuned legal institutions, and its civil service
examination system that selected political leaders on the basis of academic mastery.
The role of Yunnan in the Chinese statemaking project is somewhat paradoxical. One
need only glance at a historical chart of the dynasties, stretching back 3,000 years, or look
at the way that the geographical extent of the dynasties waxed and waned throughout that
long expanse of history to see that in the context of the modern Chinese state Yunnan can
reasonably be considered part of the southwestern periphery. Yunnan became a province
officially only in the late thirteenth century under the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongols. In
fact, if we shift our gaze a bit, we can also see Yunnan as the northern end of the South-
east Asian highlands, a region called “Zomia,” a name that scholars use to describe the vast
upland zone that includes parts of southwest China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia,
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