Water Becomes a Weapon in China’s Geopolitical Chess

Many centuries ago, the great Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu observed: “The nature of water is such that it avoids heights and hastens to the lowlands. When a dam is broken, the water cascades with irresistible force. Now the shape of an army resembles water. Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness; attack him when he does not expect it; avoid his strength and strike his emptiness, and like water, none can oppose you.”

Modern China seems to have learned the ancient master’s lesson well. It has unleashed water wars on Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Even as China’s neighbors deal with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, they are experiencing their worst drought in living memory.

The mighty Mekong River has its origin in the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China into Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. It carries precious silt, making the lower Mekong basin incredibly fertile and the rice bowl of Southeast Asia. The river provides sustenance to approximately 60 million people living in its lower basin. It is also amongst the most bio-diverse rivers in the world teeming with fish, birds and wildlife.

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Mayank Singh