Delta blues? Tensions rise along the Mekong as science meets strategy

China has been ramping up its investments with the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, which – according to American officials – is an attempt to compete with the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

A competition over who dominates scientific and technical knowledge of the river indicates an escalation in the complexity of challenges confronting the Mekong and an evolution from what seemed to be a largely domestic focus of China’s economic interests in its upper reaches.

Concerns for how countries along the Mekong share its resources have grown since the development of substantial infrastructure in Yunnan, China, whence the river flows. At the heart of hundreds of small- and medium-sized investments are a dozen very large hydropower and multipurpose dam projects developed by HydroLancang, a subsidiary of the state-owned power generator China Huaneng Group, one of the country’s largest energy companies.  

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Giulio Boccaletti