Maintaining Optimism in the Face of Reality. Occasional observations on the state of the world, society, business and politics. Usually anchored by facts, always augmented by opinion.

Is China Worried about Three Gorges Dam Holding?  | e-mail post

In a post yesterday I mentioned the heavy flooding in China and the strain it is putting on the Three Gorges Dam. It looks like China might be worried about the upcoming heavy rains mentioned at the very end of this article I referenced. The Scotsman reports today that China has stationed anti-terror troops at the dam. The Chinese apparently cite "a 'clearly rising threat from the United States' and a military buildup in Japan," according to the story. [Reuters] [VoA] The most "legitimate" threat (at least in the minds of Beijing) might be "Taiwanese independence terrorists," as General Liu referred to them in June, according to this story from the China Daily.

Of course, Taiwan already is independent, even if the Chinese aren't so good at acknowledging it, so I'm not sure if Taiwanese terroris is very likely. The General's remark was actually made in reference to a U.S. statement that mentioned that the dam would be a good defensive target for Taiwan if the Chinese tried anything like invading Taiwan.

In fact, the first-ever ant-terror training exercise conducted in China happened just a couple days ago on Sunday, as the Hindustan Times reports. This was presumably for purposes of intimidating Tibet in advance of the visit this week by the Dalai Lama's envoys. As a pratical matter, it appears the only terrorist groups that China acknowledges are typically not terrorists, as this case highlights. China has used terrorist labels to legitimize many of its continuing human rights abuses, and I imagine with Putin cracking down now, they will see it as offering an even freer reign to legitimize further actions, especially given the amount of dissent in the country (USA Today cites 58,000 "mass incidents" across China last year).

But getting back to the dam, I don't want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but I really haven't heard or read anything meaningful about terrorism in China and I can't help but think the Chinese are deploying troops there (and publicizing it) because they might have some fear that the Three Gorges Dam could have some problems as the next waves of rain roll through China. At this point, if the dam did fail catastrophically, they could point to a terrorist plot to explain it away, to their own people, if not the world. What would be amazing is if they felt they needed to back it up by acting against Taiwan, but that seems rather far-fetched. We'll have to wait and see. Whatever China's motivations, hopefully the dam will hold; the potential devastation and loss of life in the event of a failure would be enormous. Of course, it would probably take care of the trade imbalance John Snow is worried about.

e-mail post | Link Cosmos | [Permalink]  |  | Tuesday, September 14, 2004
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