Water Wars in the Middle Kingdom

By Matthew French

Abstract: China’s government has warned that by 2030 the country will have exploited all available water supplies. Over 40% of the water in the seven largest river systems is too polluted for human consumption, and environmental degradation has begun to trigger civil unrest. China’s damming projects have provided a large and necessary
reservoir of water and much needed hydropower, but at the cost of
millions of internally displaced persons. Internationally, China and
India remain at odds over disputed border territory, and China’s
damming on the Tibetan Plateau is a cause of concern. Populations
in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh rely on these rivers. Disrupting
the water supply threatens the uneasy peace and could exacerbate
existing tensions between India and China. Beijing has taken steps
to reduce its impact on the environment, but demand has outpaced
these efforts. China’s environmental security and water resource
problems pose great challenges, but the sooner Beijing addresses
these problems, the sooner it can achieve its goal of the “Chinese

About the Author: Matthew French is a Fellow at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and is pursuing a master’s degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University. He grew up in Connecticut and received his bachelor’s degree in management from Boston College. After graduating he worked in the venture capital and private equity sector for a financial consulting firm, before working for an advanced materials and energy start-up. His topical interests include energy, natural resources, and water conflicts.

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