Researching the state and engineering on the North China Plain, 1949-1999

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3 Scopus citations


This paper explores methodological and thematic approaches of an ongoing research project that focuses on how the government of the People's Republic of China managed water resources after 1949. The project will formulate conclusions about the environmental consequences of different hydraulic engineering projects as China pursued different developmental paradigms. The state pursued Soviet-style central planning for much of the 1950s, Great Leap Forward decentralization and communalization between 1958 and 1961, a blend of state planning and mass mobilization during the 1960s and 1970s, and "market socialism" during the post-Mao era (1978-). The project will be organized around these four eras and it will examine the implications that each of these developmental approaches had on North China's water resources. Comparative conclusions about the environmental consequences of these four developmental periods will be guided by several fundamental options that faced state and party leaders throughout the post-1949 period: (1) modern hydraulic engineering vs. traditional water conservancy and mass mobilization, (2) central vs. local planning, (3) international technical cooperation vs. self-reliance, and (4) economic development vs. environmental protection. The results of this study will suggest the potential environmental consequences of water policy choices that are made in China. Whether the issue is centralization versus decentralization, reliance on contemporary standards of hydraulic engineering versus traditional mass mobilization, or self-reliance versus international cooperation, an examination of the experience of water management in China since 1949 will point to the environmental consequences of hydraulic engineering choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-60
Number of pages8
JournalWater History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010


  • China
  • Hydraulic engineering
  • North China Plain
  • Water resources
  • Yellow River

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Water Science and Technology


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