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September 12, 2009 in The China Beat


Copyright September 12, 2009. Used by permission.


We’ve linked to pieces on China at YaleGlobal Online in the past, but wanted to make a special note that they are now running a Chinese version of their website (also hosted by a Fudan U server). YaleGlobal is edited by Nayan Chanda, the author of Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalization (reviewed in Newsweek by Jeff Wasserstrom). In addition to encouraging you to jump into the Chinese version of YaleGlobal, however, we thought we would also point you to a few recent pieces (in English) that China watchers might find interesting.

1. “Dams in China Turn the Mekong Into a River of Discord”

A report in May by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) warned that China’s plan for a cascade of eight dams on the Mekong, which it calls the Lancang Jiang, might pose “a considerable threat” to the river and its natural riches. In June, Thailand’s prime minister was handed a petition calling for a halt to dam building. It was signed by over 11,000 people, many of them subsistence farmers and fishermen who live along the river’s mainstream and its many tributaries.

Some analysts say that if the worst fears of critics are realized, relations between China and its neighbors in mainland Southeast Asia will be severely damaged. But mindful of the growing power and influence of China, Southeast Asian governments have muffled their concern. Meanwhile, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand have put forward plans to dam their sections of the Mekong mainstream, prompting Vietnam to object and undermining the local environmentalists’ case against China.

2. “China’s Quiet Activists“:

In China, where grassroots NGOs face many restrictions, legal recognition of a grassroots NGO network has no precedent. Onerous regulations make it difficult for NGOs to register and require that an NGO find a government agency to be its supervising unit. But finding an agency willing to take on the responsibility and risk of supervising an NGO, particularly one working in a politically sensitive area, is not easy. As a result, many grassroots NGOs end up registering as businesses or do not register at all. In addition to registration problems, NGOs lack domestic funding sources and must rely heavily on international funding. They are also viewed with suspicion by local officials and communities unfamiliar with NGOs.