At the end of 2020, the 14th Five-Year Plan and Xi Jinping‘s 2035 Visionary Goals released by the Chinese Communist Party included for the first Time the development of hydropower in the lower Yarlung Tsangpo River. According to reports, the CCP wants to build a large hydropower plant three times the size of the Three Gorges Project on the lower Yarlung-Tibet River. Currently, there are more than 80,000 reservoirs on the mainland, and building them has become one of the state policies used by the CCP to increase GDP and other capital construction. As time goes by, the function of the Three Gorges reservoir, the largest on the mainland, has been increasingly questioned by many. Why is Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s top leader, also keen on building reservoirs? Watch China correspondent interviewed Dr. Wang Weiluo, a renowned environmental and water ecology expert living in Germany, on this issue.
The political purpose of the CCP’s reservoirs – control
Dr. Wang points out that since the 1950s, when the Chinese Communist Party built reservoirs of all sizes, one of its objectives has been “control”. “It is to control people’s thinking, control people’s behavior, and also to control the water. It believes that after the water is controlled, it will also control the Chinese mainland. When the Chinese Communist Party first established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, it immediately sent a delegation to the Soviet Union to learn from its experience. At that time, the Minister of Water Resources Fu Zuoyi, and Zhang Guangdou, a large number of people, went to more than a month back, to get the real lesson, is to build reservoirs, build dams. Because the mainland was facing two problems, one is drought, one is flooding. It said this reservoir can resist drought, can prevent flooding, but also can generate electricity.”
Communist Party’s 14th Five-Year Plan – Build Three Gorges Reservoir Three Times Larger
At the end of November last year, Yan Zhiyong, chairman of the mainland’s Power Construction Group, reportedly emphasized at the 40th anniversary conference of the Water Resources Development Engineering Society that hydropower development on the lower Yarlung Tsangpo River had been included in the 14th Five-Year Plan of the Chinese Communist Party. Wang Weiluo said, “He emphasized that it was an implementation. Then he said it would be a big project with three times the installed power generation capacity of the Three Gorges Project. After the news was reported, it attracted domestic and international attention. There is a group of people in the country, just like a chicken blood very excited. Overseas, especially in Southeast Asia, like India’s backlash is very big.
On Dec. 2, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in India said that the Communist Party of China has always taken a responsible approach to the development and utilization of transboundary rivers, implementing measures to develop and protect them at the same time, and that any project would be scientifically approved and planned, taking into full consideration the impact of the downstream areas and the interests of the upstream and downstream. A day later, the Foreign Ministry spokesman repeated this speech.”
Mainland Experts’ Big Foolishness on Yarlung Tsangpo River Development
Wang Weiluo further pointed out that if you care about the topic of hydropower in the western part of the mainland, you will notice that in fact, on the mainland’s website, it is almost every year to fool in the Tibetan Yarlung Tsangpo River, to build a larger reservoir than the Three Gorges Project. “We also talked about a project earlier, called the Hongqi River Project. It is to divert water from the Yarlung Tsangpo River here, all the way to Xinjiang to develop 800 million mu of farmland there in Xinjiang and recreate the glory of the continent. In fact, the Red Flag River is the beginning of this reservoir, and we are now talking about this Yarlung Zangbo River to be built is three times the Three Gorges Project of this hydroelectric power station is the same dam site, both in the Himalayas big bend of this place. This place is called Pai, some times the mainland called it Pai town.
We also talked about the problem of weir landslides. 2018 that year, on the Yarlung Tsangpo River, the Jinsha River have occurred on a large landslide, both formed a weir, and both sides are twice blocking the river, the first landslide slipped once after blocking the river, and later washed away, another landslide and then blocked the river, the place where the landslide occurred is also in this place.”
According to Wang Weiluo, in fact, in the early days, the Chinese Communist Party did not call the lower Yarlung Zangbo River hydropower development to the outside world, but simply called it the Murdoch Hydropower Station. The CCP’s idea of the Murdoch hydropower station can be traced back as far as the late 1950s and early 1960s. “At that time, the first scientific expedition of the Chinese Communist Academy of Sciences entered Tibet, and immediately after the so-called peaceful liberation of Tibet, you could tell that the place was rich in hydropower resources, because the Yarlung Tsangpo River is a big river on the mainland, and the slope drop here is huge, from more than 2,900 meters to only 500 meters all of a sudden. You can theoretically be used, at that time it was proposed that there are hydro energy resources here.
Then in the late eighties and 2002, an academician named Chen Chuanyou of the Institute of Geography of the Continental Academy of Sciences proposed several times to build a hydropower station here in Motuo, and also put forward a fairly detailed plan. I don’t know which one is in the front and which one is in the back between his transfer of Tibetan water to Xinjiang and his Murdoch hydropower station. If this water is generated, will it be able to go back to Xinjiang? He never answered this question.
We know that the lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River is a large canyon, the whole river into a horseshoe-shaped shape. At that time, he proposed this idea is to connect the two ends of the horseshoe with the method of tunneling, that is to say, the water does not take this horseshoe in the form of a large bend, but directly from this end of the horseshoe to the other end of the horseshoe below, connected with the tunnel, so that the water level difference of 2,000 meters can be used to generate electricity, build a four-stage power station, using four steel pipes to lead the water down to build a number of power stations. The water will be diverted downward and then built downward. He thought there is so much water level difference, I multiply a multiplier, then is the theoretical power generation capacity. He never thought that if you go through this tunnel, there is no more water in the original river. He never thought about that.
By 2006, the director of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission named Cai Qihua, he went to examine the dam site. Cai Qihua later became the vice minister of the Ministry of Water Resources. According to China’s management, the development plan of these rivers in the southwest, such as the Lancang, Nujiang and Yarlung-Zangbo rivers, is under the jurisdiction of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission. So at that time, the Yangtze River Conservancy Commission proposed a more specific plan, is to build a second level, the back of the first level is larger, with steel pipe lead down, and then the following level to build a smaller. He mainly took into account the Nyang River Yarlung Tsangpo River this place, there is a major town of Linzhi County Bayi town, it is in the military, in the economy, and in the traffic have very important significance. If you follow Chen Chuanyou’s plan, Bayi town is going to be flooded. The Yangtze River Water Resources Commission suggested building a small dam below, not to flood the town of Bayi, in the Niyang River into the upper reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, and then build a large dam.
There are other ideas. No matter which plan is not Yan Zhiyong said at the end of November last year, he was able to mount to three times the Three Gorges Project. That is to say, Yan Zhiyong is more huyo everyone huyo fierce a little.”
The world’s highest density of reservoirs on the mainland
Wang Weiluo said that for the actual development of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, it has started as early as 1991 with the construction of the Yamdrok Lake Hydropower Station. “It was built in the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River. We know the Zangmu hydropower station, which is the first hydropower station built on the main stream of the Yarlung Zangbo River. Together with the Zangmu hydropower station, there are five hydropower stations, this five hydropower stations, the total distance between only 38.5 kilometers. Just imagine, in this short distance, there are five dams more than 100 meters high, which is a scenario? The density of dam construction is the highest in the world. That is, your impact is not the impact of one dam, but the accumulation of five dams.
Below these five dams, three more dams were built. Let’s say in this section of the middle reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, a total of eight dams have been built. In the downstream of this dam should be followed by what we call the largest dam in the lower Yarlung Zangbo River.
So now has been completed we know that there is Zangmu, there is also a Gacha hydropower station, in its upstream there is a Dagok hydropower station, also completed. The mainland media is not covering the commissioning of these two power stations in a high profile like Zangmu used to be, but in a very low profile.”
Xi Jinping is eager to do something big and shocking
Why did Xi Jinping mention the hydropower development of the lower Yarlung-Zangbo River in the 14th Five-Year Plan and the 2035 Vision Plan? According to Wang Weiluo, there are several reasons, including Xi’s philosophy of governance. “Xi Jinping he as an intellectual youth, at that time he was in the countryside is reading the so-called Marx and Lenin books, that is, Stalin’s political economy textbooks, so many of his ideas are closer to Stalin’s ideas.
Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Li Peng had the Three Gorges Project; Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao had the South-North Water Transfer Project. Deng Xiaoping had a Shenzhen Special Zone, Jiang Zemin had a Pudong New Area, and Hu Jintao had a Tianjin New Area. Xi Jinping is also anxious to do a few big things that are earth-shattering, first engaged in a Xiongan New Area, the Millennium Plan, it seems to have done nothing to make a sound, he is also anxious to do a bigger project than the Three Gorges Project to show his ability, in the history of the above also left him such a stroke. This is the first.
The second from the mainland intellectuals, now the mainland intellectuals, to put it nicely, they are a little more pragmatic, a little better ass-kissing. They think they are the strategists of the mainland decision makers. There are very few intellectuals on the mainland who are brave enough to speak out, like Xu Zhongrun, Cai Xia, Fang Fang or Geng Xiaonan, and the Chinese Communist Party punishes them severely, so severely that you may not even survive. So most intellectuals, the best they can do is to remain silent, and many others just follow the hoo-hah, hoo-hah our leaders up.
The pressure of the mainland economy on Xi Jinping
Wang Weiluo further said that the third factor is the pressure of the economic development of the mainland. “The mainland’s economy is actually a big problem now, the mainland does not buy Australian wine, some of the mainland’s netizens feel very happy. He then did not expect Australia to raise the price of this iron ore by 50%, it finally had to make concessions on top of iron ore, coal, because its economic lifeline is there. Buy a few more bottles of wine for it is actually not too big a problem, but the relationship is broken, if people do not even sell you iron ore, the mainland’s steel production, the world’s leader in this position, there will be a big problem, and it is a lot of employment depends on the steel industry and capital construction. In fact, it is the use of state investment to pry economic development, to engage in these large hydropower development, or water transfer program.
And through the forty years of this development, the western water resources have almost been developed. Now the rest of this is also so little, is in the Tibet Autonomous Region, in the Yarlung Tsangpo River downstream of this piece.”
Increasing GDP and the motivation of Tibetan leaders
Wang Weiluo pointed out that according to Yan Zhiyong, when the hydroelectric power station in the lower Yarlung Zangbo River is running, it can bring Tibet more than 20 billion yuan of fiscal revenue every year. “Let’s just look at it, the local fiscal revenue of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 2019 is only 22.2 billion, while the central fiscal subsidy is 190 billion, which means that the Tibet Autonomous Region lives completely on the central fiscal subsidy. So you have to say to the Tibetan leadership, I bring you 20 billion fiscal revenue every year, he is going to be overjoyed, GDP got up, and his achievements.
We have talked about these projects of transferring water from Tibet to save the mainland, when Guo Kai sold his water transfer plan to the Tibetan leaders, if you transfer water, you can bring 200 billion RMB to Tibet every year, much more than your power generation, power generation is 20 billion, he transferred water, you don’t have to do anything, just transfer the water on the line, you can transfer 200 billion RMB of fiscal revenue. So these Tibetan leaders will definitely support these projects as long as they hear that they can pull up their GDP.”
The Yarlung Tsangpo River is an international river. If the Chinese Communist Party insists on developing the lower reaches, what will be the impact on neighboring countries? And what is the impact on Tibet’s environment? What are the risks of building three times the size of the Three Gorges Dam? Does the mainland really need so many reservoirs? Stay tuned for the next episode of [Interview with Wang Weiluo] Why Xi Jinping is also keen on building reservoirs.