Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
elites. It is essentially state-managed capitalism, although leaders much prefer the euphem-
ism “socialism with Chinese characteristics” ( Zhongguo tese de shehui zhuyi ).
The outcomes associated with China's development path over the past few decades are
nothing short of remarkable: its coastal cities have grown into global manufacturing cen-
ters; its countryside has seen the dismantling of collective agriculture in favor of small-
scale, lease-based, private farming; and hundreds of millions of people have joined the
ranks of the middle class. In this regard, no matter how we choose to classify China's de-
velopment path, it shares one crucial characteristic with many Western models: the idea
that development is an eminently desirable pursuit—one that is politically neutral, driven
forward by faith in scientific, technological, and economic progress (Ferguson 1994). As
stitute the main focus of this topic, the CCP's overriding philosophy is one of pragmatism.
It seems there is no problem for which a technocratic solution cannot be found.
Despite the fact that China and the West share crucial common ground on the issue of
modernism, understanding China's recent development path requires a slightly different
way of thinking, not because the market fails to operate here, but because in addition to
that “invisible hand” there is also the constant, guiding hand of the party-state. Anna Tsing
has referred to this melding of market and authoritarian state as the “frontiers of capital-
ism” (2005:27). The melding process is not always easy and entails the same philosophic-
al battles that have played out for centuries between liberal economic theorists, who wish
to see as little regulation as possible on rational economic actors in the marketplace, and
Keynesians, who see a key role for the state in coordination, planning, and the provision of
basic social services. At the moment, China seems to be having its cake and eating it, too.
As I argue in this topic, the convergence of capitalist development with the party-state's
stronghold on political power is an incredibly effective way to fast-track large hydropower
projects. It can also spell great hardship for individuals and communities who stand in the
path of development but lack a seat at the decision-making table. 8
Within the moral economy of water resources, questions of expertise—of the different
ways of constructing and valuing knowledge—are central to this discussion. How do
the main constituent groups in water-resource management and hydropower develop-
ment—government agencies, hydropower corporations, NGOs, and local communit-
ies—conceive of the dam-development issue, produce knowledge about it through the use
of science and other means, and seek to influence the decision-making processes surround-
ing it? These groups have quite divergent perspectives on water, with some viewing it as
a global resource to be conserved, some as a resource to be developed for the good of the
nation, and some as a critical component of a landscape in which they live. The dams that
constitute the major focus of this topic have been built—or are currently being built—in
the name of national economic development. But the normative questions that surround
them—about transparency and public participation, about the balance between conserva-
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