measuring; most others reported that it was done by a government official. Among study
participants whose land had been measured, 42 percent reported feeling that the measure-
ment was conducted fairly.
Despite a lack of systematic information about the projects, it is clear that the national
discourse about hydropower development—as a poverty-alleviation strategy, as a national-
security issue, and as a symbol of modernization—permeates the Nu River Gorge. In their
survey responses, the vast majority of villagers reported that they “supported the construc-
tion of dams” in general in China and supported the Nu River projects in particular. Most
villagers cited electricity generation and economic growth as the most significant poten-
tial benefits that would likely come from dam construction. One man, a farmer in Lushui
County, remarked, “It [dam construction] can turn a natural resource into an energy source.
such as employment in construction, and regarded the dam project as a means of gaining
wage-labor income without having to go outside the community to look for work.
nificant costs. When asked about potential negative impacts of the hydropower projects,
many villagers mentioned the inundation of their agricultural and grazing land and the loss
of their homes. They recognized that the potential consequences for them and their famil-
ies might be felt for generations, particularly if access to land—the primary social safety
net in rural China—were compromised. For example, one forty-year-old farmer in Lushui
County remarked, “Although villagers will receive compensation, they'll lose their land,
and that will mean their children will be landless peasants.”
Villagers were also asked how they would likely cope with the effects of the dam pro-
jects on their livelihoods. On the one hand, their responses often reflected a general sense
of fatalism, that “nothing could be done [ meiyou banfa ].” As one fifty-two-year-old farmer
said, “Whatever the government says is what we must do.” On the other hand, their re-
sponses also pointed to a sense of trust in government officials and policy makers to com-
pensate them fairly for their lost land and homes. One forty-six-year-old woman optimist-
ically stated, “The common people [ laobaixing ] don't have any means of coping by them-
current research in political science that suggests that Chinese villagers often trust central-
government authorities, whom they perceive as upright and just, far more than they trust
local-government cadres, whom they often view as opportunistic or corrupt (L. Li 2004).
ECONOMIC, POLITICAL, AND CULTURAL VULNERABILITY