Making Capitalism in Rural China

Making Capitalism in Rural China

Michael Webber

This stimulating and challenging book explores the duplicitous nature of development in China. On the positive side, it brings longer and healthier lives; fewer children dead before they are five years old; more comfort and security from famine and disaster; more education; more communication; more travel; less war. But from another, darker perspective, development brings violence to some people – those who are in the way of the new things, those who cannot adapt to the new ways – and it threatens old knowledges, habits and societies as it disrupts old power structures.

Chapter 6: Water Wallies

Michael Webber

Subjects: asian studies, asian development, asian geography, asian urban and regional studies, development studies, asian development, development studies, geography, human geography, urban and regional studies, urban studies


1 China is by all accounts short of water. The average amount of water per person in China is only 2300–2400 m3 per year, a quarter of the world average. Local and international scholars, officials and newspapers all explain that the shortage of water constrains economic development.2 Water is most scarce in the north, particularly on the North China Plain, where agriculture, industry and municipalities demand more water than is available.3 In the Hai, Huai, and Huang (Yellow) River Basins, there is only 358–750 m3 of renewable water per person per year. Shortages are compounded by pollution, falling groundwater levels, land subsidence and sea water intrusion.4 According to Wang Shucheng, Minister of Water Resources from November 1998 to April 2007, water shortages pose the biggest challenge to the government’s quest to develop an affluent society within 20 years.5 Shortages occur in part because more and more farmers in northern China irrigate their crops, but mostly because city dwellers and industry demand more and more water.6 Water shortages in grain-producing regions limit agricultural production and may yet provoke food crises.7 There is a growing clamour for measures to restrict the growth of demand, particularly to reallocate water from supposedly inefficient agricultural users to the rapidly increasing industrial and urban users, and an equal interest in moving water from where it is abundant (in and south of the Changjiang valley) to where it is less abundant (the north).8 Many international development agencies argue that the best solution to water...

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