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Inside‐out: Chinese academic assessments of large‐scale water infrastructure

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Abstract Little is known in the international academic community about Chinese‐language research on water management. To remedy this deficit, this paper reviews current mainland Chinese understandings of the role of large‐scale water infrastructures as tools of water resources management. We reviewed 461 papers published in mainland Chinese journals by Chinese scholars. This review suggests that the dominant approach to water management reflects the confines of government priorities—large‐scale, concrete‐heavy, infrastructure‐based means of moving water around the country so as to meet demands and stimulate economic growth. Suppression of critical voices means that infrastructure is generally rendered apolitical: the critiques are about practical issues, such as technological, managerial, or administrative problems. There are exceptions to this characterization that adopt more critical frames; however, they reflect on water management elsewhere or in the past rather than on contemporary China. While these more critical papers are interesting and important contributions to our understanding of the politics of hydraulic infrastructures, the literature as a whole says little about the politics of infrastructure in China now. In effect, much of the literature in Chinese on water management in China simply acts as an arm of a machine—a network of corporations, universities, international institutions, and arms of the government, together tasked with identifying and framing what are water management issues, formulating standardized procedures for tackling those issues, and then constructing solutions to them. This article is categorized under: Engineering Water > Planning Water Human Water > Water Governance

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Engineering Water > Planning Water
Human Water > Water Governance

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