16 December 2007

China's Hydro Campaign

Primary sources:
12 January 2000: International Water Power & Dam Construction
Iran funds dam completion
1 June 2002: People's Daily Online (China)
China Wins Contract to Build Another 'Three Gorges' Dam in Africa
12 August 2002: BBC News
Work starts on giant Ethiopian dam
1 December 2002: International Water Power & Dam Construction
China provides funds for new dams
May 2003: World Rainforest Movement
Villagers Mount Unprecedented Protest Against Dam in Laos
23 April 2004: International Water Power & Dam Construction
One horse race for Peruvian Olmos bid
28 July 2004: International Water Power & Dam Construction
Sudan projects underway
9 September 2004: VOA Lao
Construction of Nam Mang 3 Dam Is Near Completion
22 September 2004: America's Intelligence Wire
Kyrgyz leader invites China to invest in hydro plants in Kyrgyzstan
24 November 2004: EurasiaNet.org
Central Asia: China's Mounting Influence - Xinjiang's Thirst Threatens Kazakh Water Resources
26 March 2005: The New Light of Myanmar
Paunglaung Multi-purpose Dam... (pdf)
1 November 2005: Pambazuka News (Africa)
Ghana: All Set For Bui Dam To Take Off
2007: Kachin Development Networking Group
Damming the Irawaddy (pdf)
2007: Salween Watch
Under the Boot (pdf)
2007: Mon Youth Progressive Organization
In the Balance (pdf)
3 March 2007: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Villagers want end of Salween dams
11 April 2007: International Water Power & Dam Construction
Myanmar pushes ahead Thanlwin hydro projects
2 October 2007: Planet Ark
Mozambique Plans US$1.7 Bln Hydro-Electric Project
10 November 2007: Tehran Times (Iran)
China to finance world's highest dam in Iran
15 November 2007: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Cambodia raps Laos over Mekong dams
21 November 2007: The Nation (Thailand)
Chinese make move: MDX, Ratchaburi face threat in huge power schemes
2 December 2007: Bangkok Post (Thailand)
Dammed Angry
3 December 2007: Monsters & Critics
Activists petition China to regulate dam projects in Myanmar (Roundup)
3 December 2007: Reuters
China dam project a boost for Myanmar junta: report
4 December 2007: International Water Power & Dam Construction
Works well advanced at Myanmar's Yeywa RCC dam
6 December 2007: ModernGhana.com
China Urged To Build Capacity Of Ghanaians
10 December 2007: KNG News
Despite protests, Burma's junta and China pushing ahead with first dam on the Irrawaddy
You may need Acrobat Reader for some of the links above. Additional sources include Wikipedia and specific links provided below.

A few weeks ago I sent to Tom Barnett an article link that seems in both of our interests. It was a very short blurb from the Tehran (Iran) Times, listed above, that mentioned a deal for Chinese funding of a new hydropower project that would end up as the "highest dam in the world." I don't know if that means base elevation, crest elevation, the difference between those...my interest was piqued more by the linking of those two countries in such a deal.

Mr. Barnett has discussed more than once on his blog that China seems to be stepping up into the role of "System Administrator" (a.k.a. SysAdmin) where American efforts at shrinking the Gap are lacking. (If you are not familiar with these terms, check out the Barnett Glossary. For a more complete explanation of how these things fit together, read Mr. Barnett's books listed there and at left.) China has stepped in economically where America seems to function only militarily, at best: the New Core invests eagerly where the Old Core remains complacent, or has lost its expertise. This is especially the case in Africa, where Chinese investment has focused on the energy sector but, as I wrote earlier, encompasses much more of the target society in order to win the "hearts and minds" of locals in the regions of interest.

It got me wondering where else the Chinese hydropower industry was finding new markets, so I did a little more checking, and found some interesting things. These are hydropower projects outside of China in which Chinese companies (funding, labor, construction, operation, and maintenance) and/or the Chinese government (primarily funding) have become involved over the past several years:
  • 1997
    • Kajbar, Nile River, Sudan (US$270M, 300 MW)
  • 2002
    • Bui, Black Volta River, Ghana (US$500M, 400 MW)
    • Tekeze, Tekeze River, Ethiopia (US$224M, irrigation + 200 MW)
    • Ifrane*, Melloulou River, Morocco (irrigation)
    • Chefchaouen*, Laou River, Morocco (drinking water)
    • Al-Hoceima*, Rhis River, Morocco (drinking water)
  • 2004
    • Merowe, Nile River, Sudan (1,250 MW)
  • 2005
    • Nam Mang 3, Nam Ngam River, Laos (US$63M, 40 MW)
    • Paunglaung, Paunglaung River, Myanmar (140 MW)
  • 2006
    • Hutgyi, Salween River, Myanmar (US$1.0B, 1,200 MW)
    • Shweli 1*, Shweli River, Myanmar (600 MW)
  • 2007
    • Bakhtiari, Bakhtiari River, Iran (€1.2B, 1,500 MW)
    • Myitsone, Irawaddy River, Myanmar (3,600 MW)
    • Tasang, Salween River, Myanmar (US$24B, 7,110 MW)
    • Tete, Zambezi River, Mozambique (US$1.7B, 1,300 MW)
    • Upper Thanlwin, Salween River, Myanmar (2,400 MW)
    • Yeywa, Myitnge River, Myanmar (790 MW)
  • Unknown date, or in planning stages
    • Chibwe*, N'Mai River, Myanmar (2,000 MW)
    • Dagwin, Salween River, Myanmar (792 MW)
    • Khaunlanphu*, N'Mai River, Myanmar (1,700 MW)
    • Laiza*, Mali River, Myanmar (1,560 MW)
    • Lakin*, N'Mai River, Myanmar (1,400 MW)
    • Pashe*, N'Mai River, Myanmar (1,600 MW)
    • Phizaw*, N'Mai River, Myanmar (1,500 MW)
    • Shweli 2, Shweli River, Myanmar (460 MW)
    • Shweli 3, Shweli River, Myanmar (360 MW)
    • Weigyi, Salween River, Myanmar (US$6B, 4,540 MW)
* = actual site name unknown

A note to readers: if you find mistakes in this list or updated information on any of these or other projects, please let me know and I'll update as necessary.

Numerous Chinese organizations and companies have been mentioned specifically in the press in relation to these projects:
  • China Export-Import Bank (Paunglaung, Yeywa and Tasang in Myanmar; Merowe in Sudan; Nam Mang 3 in Laos)
  • Farsighted Investment Group Co. (Upper Thanlwin, Myanmar)
  • Gold Water Resources (Upper Thanlwin, Myanmar)
  • Sino Hydro (Bui, Ghana; Salween projects, Myanmar)
  • China National Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Corp. (Tekeze, Ethiopia)
  • Harbin Power (Merowe, Sudan)
  • Gezhouba Water and Power (Yeywa and Salween projects, Myanmar)
  • Yunnan Joint Power Development Co. (Shweli, Myanmar)
  • Zhejiang Fuchunjiang Hydropower Equipment (Hutgyi, Myanmar)
  • Dalang (Yunnan) United Hydropower Developing Co. (Yeywa, Myanmar)
I'd guess that list is woefully incomplete, however. Interestingly, one Russian company was mentioned in relation to a couple of the projects in Myanmar:
  • Power Machines (Yeywa and Hutgyi, Myanmar)

There are two distinct regions of Chinese investment in the hydropower projects listed here, both of which are in the Non-Integrating Gap described by Mr. Barnett: Africa, and Southeast Asia. More specifically, Myanmar is a neighbor of China to the south, and the planned projects there and in other Southeast Asian countries are intended to strengthen the power grid in that region and, ultimately, to feed back and provide some of the energy that China demands in its current cycle of rapid population and urban growth in the southern provinces. Even more hydropower project are planned in China itself, including thirteen dams on tributaries of the Salween River, and several others on the upper Mekong River and its tributaries throughout Southeast Asia.

So if local power production explains much or all of the $30B Chinese investment in Myanmar, against much local opposition, and if wholistic development strategies explain much or all of the investment in various African countries, what about this new project in Iran? Most likely it's part of a larger negotiation over oil resources, Iranian exports to China to feed the demands of the growing population there. China has also sought agreements with the former Soviet countries of Central Asia, especially around the Caspian Sea. However, as far as I can find, there is no known Chinese investment in hydropower projects in Central Asia, possibly because of competition from Russia in the former Soviet states. This possibility stands in distinct opposition to the apparent cooperation between Chinese and Russian companies on hydromachinery equipment at two projects in Myanmar. It all suggests to me that, if there is still some "Great Game" afoot in Central Asia, it's not necessarily Russia that has taken the part of the northern player. It might just be Kazakhstan, which is already in disagreement with China over water resources from the Irtysh and Ili Rivers that both originate in China and cross their common border, and from which China has been drawing resources for development in its western provinces.

A partnership between Kyrgyzstan and China was formed in September 2004 through which the Kyrgyz leadership hoped to obtain US$2.0B from China for construction of two hydroelectric sites on the Naryn River that were expected to produce 1,600 MW. The Tien Shan range, which effectively separates Kyrgyzstan from China, provides a seemingly endless supply of meltwater rivers, and hydropower potential, to Asia's interior. However, a revolution in Kyrgyzstan in March 2005 resulted in the removal of President Akayev's regime and his replacement with ostensibly pro-democracy leadership, though some recent reforms there show a regression to earlier political practices. The current status of the Kyrgyz development agreement with China is unknown.

Both Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Tajikistan, two Central Asian countries of the former Soviet Republic with abundant water resources, have claimed China as a potential investor in the construction of hydropower projects. However, some analysts see the resurgence of Great Power politics in the region between Russia, China, and now the U.S. I'll attempt to address that issue in a later post on this blog. Part of that difficult seems to involve the bloc mentality of the former Soviet states in Central Asia, the idea that all must work together and decide collectively on development opportunities rather than each acting on their own. In this case, both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are oil-rich, water-poor downstream neighbors of the water-rich, oil-poor Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Both of the latter countries have sworn off aid to terrorists in any manner, and have effectively entered America's good graces. To leave their Gap status behind, however, they'll need to develop, and have identified their most valuable commodity. If they can stand up to their downstream neighbors and approach the economic negotiating table with autonomy and confidence, they'll do well for themselves and the region. If they choose to remain subordinate to those neighbors, who remain stuck in their oil-resource and deficit-agriculture traps (the first is defined by Paul Collier in his brilliant The Bottom Billion, and the latter is coined here by me, as far as I know), the upstream countries will stay trapped there too, and their water resources will remain spoken-for as a legacy of the Soviet era. As an example, look at the Aral Sea, bordered by both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and a prime example of Soviet-era resource mismanagement. Look also at the massive, thirsty, and finally shrinking cotton fields in Uzbekistan, another legacy of the Soviet top-down model of economic development.

Finally, as far as I can find, there has been no apparent investment in North Korean hydropower projects in the past decade, though two of those projects in N.K. have made the news for completely different reasons: one is on a tributary of the Han River, which flows into South Korea and thus threatens cross-border water security on the peninsula. The other is close to the N.K. border with China, and in September 2004 was the site of two large explosions that triggered fears of small-scale nuclear tests. Apparently they were just excavating the dam site...