China, Responsibility, and the Politics of Regional Water Governance: the Case of the Lancang-Mekong River
The transnational nature of environmental challenges facing states today has
undoubtedly become a distinctive feature of our globalising world. The fact that
domestic environmental problems can – and do – easily spill into the international
realm attests to how vital environmental governance has become not only to global and
regional stability, but equally to national security. The case of water governance in the
Mekong River basin, in particular, constitutes an important example, epitomizing the
host of problems that can arise from the sharing of transboundary resources between
developing states in the midst of modernization. The dam-building and navigation
projects that China is currently undertaking on the river further adds to the issue’s
complexity, having provoked much heated debates on the potentially negative
ramifications of its activities. But to simply characterize China as either responsible or
irresponsible risks overlooking the nuances of Chinese foreign policy, as well as bigger,
unresolved issues to do with ‘shared responsibility’. Ultimately, what this article seeks
to demonstrate is how China’s role in the Lancang-Mekong River’s management is
driven by a complex interplay between interests, (hydro)power and responsibility.
Keywords: China; Mekong; responsibility; hydropower; water governance
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