Will the Mekong River Really Become the Next South China Sea?

In recent years, the fate of Southeast Asia’s great river – the Mekong – has attracted growing international scrutiny. The Mekong faces many challenges, from the impacts of climate change and saline encroachment in its delta, to dam developments on the headwaters of the river inside China. All of these concerns have been magnified by the intensifying strategic competition between the United States and China, which has imbued the question of the Mekong’s future with a strategic undercurrent.

Ming Li Yong, a fellow at the East-West Center who has researched transboundary water governance and hydropower development in the Mekong River Basin, spoke to The Diplomat about comparisons between the Mekong and the South China Sea, the impacts and implications of China’s upstream hydropower development, and the future of transboundary governance of the river and its resources.

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Sebastian Strangio