China is at the centre of Asia’s struggle for water security

  • 04.12.2022
  • SCMP

One country that has long understood the value of water is China. In many ways, China’s history is one of water management. It is said that the unique hydrological conditions within China led to the creation of three historical miracles: China, Chinese civilisation, and the Chinese people.

In both ancient and modern times, Chinese rulers have acknowledged the importance of water as a weapon, as well as its role in maintaining social stability and securing their political leadership. This belief dates back to over 4000 years ago when Yu the Great of the Xia dynasty is said to have tamed the Yellow River, and was seen more recently during the 20th century when Chairman Mao Zedong swam in the Yangtze in a show of power.

Currently, China faces enormous challenges related to unequal water distribution; the densely populated north suffers from acute water shortages, whereas the south is prone to severe floods. Due to various factors like urbanisation, the demand for freshwater is quickly increasing. Forecasts project that, by 2030, China’s water demand will surpass 800 billion cubic metres.