Chinese Communist Party Weaponizes Water Resources, International Community Must Be Wary

If oil was the strategic resource of the 20th century, then the strategic resource of the 21st century is water. China is fortunate to have the world’s third pole, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as “Asian Water Towers”, where many of Asia’s great rivers originate; however, the world is unfortunate to have the Chinese Communist Party steal the country, poisoning both China and the world, and the “international waterway The “international waterway” has become a card in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party to bully and coerce many countries.

Let’s look at two examples. The first is that the Mekong River, originally one of the most productive rivers on earth (originating from the northeastern slopes of China’s Tanggula Mountains and called the Lancang River in China), known as Asia’s “Danube,” has become a “political bargaining chip” for the Chinese Communist Party to control Southeast Asia.

Although the 11 dams built by the Chinese Communist Party on the upper Lancang River have had a serious impact on the Mekong River, threatening the livelihoods of the 70 million people who depend directly on it for their livelihoods, earlier this year, on February 12, the Mekong River Commission (MRC) of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam issued a statement saying that the Mekong’s water level had However, on June 8, at the Sixth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation in Chongqing, the five Mekong countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – cooperated by issuing the “Agreement on Deepening Local Cooperation among the Lancang-Mekong Countries”, which whitewashed the Chinese Communist Party. -The five Mekong countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, have cooperated by publishing the “Initiative on Deepening Local Cooperation among the Lancang River and Mekong Countries” to whitewash China.

Why are these five countries so subservient? In 2010, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia complained to the Chinese Communist Party about the serious drop in water levels in the Mekong River, arguing that the drought downstream was caused by the dams built on the Lancang River. However, in 2016, when Vietnam experienced a severe drought and seawater backed up in some coastal areas due to the reduction of water in the river, the CCP uncharacteristically “came to the rescue” by providing emergency water replenishment to the lower Mekong River from March 15, 2016 to April 10, 2016 through the Jinghong hydropower plant in China’s Yunnan Province. The two events, one positive and one negative, indicate that the CCP has taken control of the Mekong River’s “tap”.

On April 11, 2020, Eyes on Earth Inc. (a U.S. firm specializing in water resources research and consulting) released a study that confirms this.

The company used satellite data acquired by Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder technology to detect rain and snow melt at the surface in the Chinese section of the Mekong River Basin from 1992 to late 2019, and compared these data with Mekong River Commission readings at the Chiang Saen Hydrological Station in Thailand, the closest hydrological station to China. These data were compared with river level readings taken by the Mekong River Commission at the Chiang Saen Hydrological Station, the nearest station to China, to develop a “natural” level prediction model for the river (this study focused only on water flowing out of China and not downstream). Starting in 1992, the predictive model and river measurements generally matched each other very well in the first few years of data collection; however, starting in 2012, when the Chinese hydropower dams on the upper Mekong became operational, the model and river level readings began to differ in most years, coinciding with periods when the Chinese dam reservoirs stored water during the rainy season and released water during the dry season; this difference was particularly pronounced in 2019. While the CCP denies these findings (arguing that there was a major drought in Yunnan in 2019), “satellite data does not lie.”

As a second example, the CCP’s hydropower development on the mainstem of the Yarlung Tsangpo poses a strategic threat to India (of course, the ecological risks inherent in hydropower development endanger China first and foremost, and the CCP is doing so to its own detriment).

The Yarlung Tsangpo River originates from the Jamayangtse Glacier in the northern Himalayas and has a total length of 2,104 kilometers, of which 2,057 kilometers is in Tibet. The delta is the largest in the world.

The Yarlung Tsangpo River is the highest river in the world, with an average altitude of about 4,000 meters above sea level; the “Great Bend Area” downstream of it forms a 2,000-meter drop within a straight line distance of 50 kilometers, bringing together nearly 70 million kilowatts of technically exploitable resources, the scale of which exceeds three Three Gorges power stations, and the installed capacity of hydroelectric power stations can reach hundreds of thousands to million kilowatts. In addition, the Yarlung Zangbo River is abundant, and there have been voices within the CCP calling for the construction of dams to bring water from the river into the Yellow River basin as an important part of the South-North Water Transfer to alleviate water shortages in the northwest (due to international pressure, on May 25, 2009, then CCP Minister of Water Resources Wang Zhucheng said, “The Chinese government has no plans to transfer water from the Yarlung Zangbo River into the Yellow River”).

The Chinese Communist Party has long wanted to develop hydropower in the lower reaches of the Yarlung-Tibet River (the middle reaches are already underway, with five reservoir dams to be built on the short 38-km stretch of the river in the Gacha Gorge, including the Zangmu hydropower plant, which will be operational in 2014, and the Dagu hydropower plant, the world’s highest crushed concrete gravity dam, which was completed on May 24 this year). But, on the one hand, the geological structure of the region is complex, the ecological environment is fragile, the engineering consequences are difficult to estimate; on the other hand, the downstream is in the actual control of India under the Tibetan South region, and the issue of territorial disputes with China and India are intertwined, so it has not been able to shoot for many years.

However, since 2020, China’s domestic situation and international strategic landscape have undergone profound changes, and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken the risk of the world by deciding to implement hydropower development in the lower reaches of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, which was officially included in the “14th Five-Year Plan and 2035 Vision Outline” (Chapter 14, Section 2) announced on March 12 this year. ).

This has had a strong impact on India. In an article entitled “The Himalayan ‘Water’ Bomb” published in the Indian Express on November 23, 2020, it was pointed out that the construction of dams in China’s Tibetan territory would have multiple adverse effects on India and that dams would play a role in the Sino-Indian geopolitical game. . In December of that year, Reuters quoted Mehra, a senior Indian water ministry official, as saying that as a “response” to the Chinese Communist Party, the Indian government was considering building a 10 GW (GW is one billion watts) hydropower project on the Brahmaputra River to “mitigate the adverse impact of China’s The Indian government is considering building a 10GW (GW is 1 billion watts) hydropower project on the Brahmaputra River to “mitigate the adverse impact of Chinese hydropower dam projects.

The development of hydropower on the lower Yarlung Tsangpo River is a strategic control of water resources for the Chinese Communist Party, while for India it is the official opening of the Sino-Indian war over water, which is also of great concern to Bangladesh.

CCP’s fallacious arguments to avoid legal solutions to international disputes

These two examples show that the Chinese Communist Party’s “water weapon” is in full swing. As Professor Chellaney of the Institute of Strategic Studies at India’s Centre for Policy Studies in New Delhi pointed out years ago in his book “Water: Asia’s New Battleground”, the CCP is increasingly accustomed to unilateralism in water use and dam construction, deliberately avoiding any legally binding commitments on water resources and refusing to address the concerns of its neighbors.

The Chinese Communist Party has a set of sophomoric arguments for this. Its consistent rhetoric is that hydropower development in China “is a legitimate right of China”; it also avoids legal avenues for dispute resolution (the CCP’s reservations to arbitration and judicial settlement clauses in the vast majority of international treaties it has signed, ratified or acceded to).

This is centrally reflected in the CCP’s refusal to accede to the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses. Drafted by the International Law Commission and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on May 21, 1997, the Convention is currently the most influential convention on the use and protection of international watercourses. The Convention incorporates the relevant rules of international customary law and incorporates the practical experience of international treaties on the development and protection of freshwater resources, and establishes important basic principles of international water law such as equitable and reasonable utilization and no significant harm, providing the basic principles and relevant systems for states to reach agreements on the non-navigational use of international watercourses.

The Chinese Communist Party, one of only three regimes to oppose the Convention, does so for absurd reasons. One is that it opposes the fundamental principle of “no significant harm” in the use of international watercourses established by the Convention. The CCP argues that this is excessively biased in favor of downstream states (it is generally accepted that the likelihood of damage to a downstream state from the use of a watercourse within its territory is much greater than the damage to an upstream state from the use of a watercourse by a downstream state), that it restricts to some extent the rights of upstream states to use watercourses within their own territories, and that it creates an international obligation for upstream states; and that this restriction is incompatible with a state’s right to enjoy and freely dispose of its own natural resources (i.e., state sovereignty). This restriction seems to be contrary to a country’s right to enjoy and freely dispose of its natural resources (i.e., national sovereignty).

The Chinese Communist Party’s opposition to the “no significant harm” principle for the use of international watercourses is pure brigandish logic and a confrontation with the international consensus. In fact, now that the earth has become a “global village” and an interconnected world, the “absolute territorial sovereignty theory” has long since become a thing of the past. Limitations, international water law theory is currently the most authoritative “limited territorial sovereignty,” is appropriate, reasonable, to some extent, is also a reflection of universal values.

The second is to oppose the provisions on dispute settlement procedures. When the Chinese Communist Party participated in the negotiation of international treaties, it always reserved the dispute settlement provisions; and the Convention not only exhausts almost all dispute settlement methods in the theory and practice of international law, but also sets up an innovative compulsory investigation procedure, which the Chinese Communist Party is afraid to avoid. In addition, there are also some detailed provisions that the CCP opposes, such as the prior notification procedure for planned measures.

The CCP refuses to accede to the Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses; and, to date, has not signed or acceded to existing multilateral treaties with other countries, nor has it established or acceded to corresponding multilateral basin management agencies, let alone joining basin-wide integrated development treaties, plans and agencies. This is a clear indication that the CCP is not taking a cooperative and legal approach to international water issues, but rather avoiding any substantive commitments and using bilateral negotiations as the main mode of “political means” and hegemonic behavior.

Conclusion: Counteracting China’s “water weapons” has become the issue of the hour

China ranks among the top countries in the world in terms of the number of international rivers and the amount of shared water resources across borders. There are more than 40 international rivers (lakes), including 15 important international rivers, 12 of which originate in China. China’s international rivers involve about 19 neighboring countries, 15 of which are bordering countries, and affect a population (according to incomplete statistics in 1995) of nearly 3 billion (including China).

Except for the northeastern region, China’s international rivers are dominated by connecting waterways. Because of its upstream location, the amount of outbound water resources is greater than the amount of inbound water resources; preliminary estimates indicate that the annual outbound water volume is about 400 billion cubic meters, which is equal to or even greater than the total annual runoff of the Yangtze River. This provides conditions for the Chinese Communist Party to play with “water weapons”, and when the Chinese Communist Party plays with “water weapons”, the danger is extraordinary.

The use of “water weapons” is not limited to hydropower development and water control, but also includes transnational water pollution prevention, biodiversity protection, emergency response, maintenance of ecological security in the basin and so on. In particular, if the Chinese Communist Party uses “water weapons” from a political or even military perspective, the consequences can be devastating.

On September 11, 2020, the United States announced the launch of the Mekong-US Partnership, which includes the United States, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and is called “an integral part of the Indo-Pacific vision and the ASEAN Strategic Partnership.” To support this partnership, the U.S. has decided to invest $150 million to support countries in the Mekong River Basin to recover from losses in the New Crown epidemic, fight transnational crime, and develop energy and power markets, among other things. This support, in turn, builds on the $3.5 billion in assistance the U.S. has already provided to the region since 2009 through the Lower Mekong Initiative and other programs. On January 12 of this year, the United States and Vietnam co-hosted the first Friends of the Mekong Policy Dialogue under the Mekong-U.S. Partnership (which includes Australia, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, with Brunei, the ASEAN Secretariat and the Mekong River Commission also participating) to support a secure, prosperous and open Mekong region. In addition, India, Japan, Australia and other countries have also increased their investment in the Mekong region to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s “water weapons.

But the current situation shows that these countermeasures are far from adequate compared to the ambition and power of the Chinese Communist Party. Almost all countries that have water relations with the CCP, from Russia, North Korea and Mongolia in Northeast Asia, to Kazakhstan in Central Asia, to South Asia and Southeast Asia, have more or less encountered the problem of the CCP’s “water weapons”. How to counteract the CCP is a serious test for every country and the international community.