As China was stricken by the coronavirus in late February, its foreign minister addressed a concerned crowd in Laos, where farmers and fishers across the Mekong River region were contending with the worst drought in living memory.
His message: We feel your pain. The foreign minister, Wang Yi, said China was also suffering from arid conditions that were sucking water from one of the world’s most productive rivers.
But new research from American climatologists shows for the first time that China, where the headwaters of the Mekong spring forth from the Tibetan Plateau, was not experiencing the same hardship at all. Instead, Beijing’s engineers appear to have directly caused the record low water levels by limiting the river’s flow.