March 21, 1994
Because of Probe International’s work to stop the Three Gorges dam, Dai Qing, China’s foremost female journalist, asked us to publish the English-language version of Yangtze! Yangtze!, a remarkable book that rallied public opposition to what threatens to become the world’s largest and most harmful dam, and led to her 10-month imprisonment.
Dai Qing is no ordinary journalist: a “Red Princess” whose father died a hero during the Japanese invasion of China and who was then adopted by the Marshal who would later reinstate Deng to power after Mao’s death, she became an engineer and rocket scientist until her disillusionment with the Cultural Revolution led her to journalism. After the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Dai astounded China by publicly resigning from the Communist Party, a shocking step from a member of one of China’s most powerful families, and fraught with great personal repercussions (Dai’s daughter, as one small example, was refused admission to Beijing University for refusing to denounce her mother. She now works as an activist with her mother).
We are delighted to publish this book, and to offer it to you upon request, because Yangtze! Yangtze! is an extraordinary collection of interviews, essays, and statements by Chinese scientists, journalists, and intellectuals opposed to the Three Gorges dam. Originally published in early 1989 as the democracy movement was gathering momentum, Yangtze! Yangtze! is credited with pressuring the State Council to postpone the dam, and with inspiring the democracy movement by striking an unprecedented blow at powerful state authorities promoting the dam.
The Economist believes that Dai and her colleagues “gave birth to the country’s first and short-lived green movement.” The Far Eastern Economic Review called Yangtze! Yangtze!‘s publication “a watershed event in post-1949 Chinese politics as it represented the first use of large-scale public lobbying by intellectuals and public figures to influence the governmental decision-making process.” But Yangtze! Yangtze! was banned in China on the grounds that it “abetted the turmoil,” and its message was muted in the West because — until now — no English-language version has been published.
This book, we believe, will help inform public opinion in the West about the Three Gorges dam which, as you may remember from our previous mailings, will flood 1.3 million people off their land, increase the dangers of catastrophic flooding, threaten various species, including the Yangtze River Dolphin, and submerge 10 cities as well as some of the richest agricultural land in the country. To add to the dam’s folly, it is entirely uneconomic, with much or most of its $34 billion price-tag coming from foreign aid financing from agencies like the World Bank and Canada’s Export Development Corporation (no private financier would build the dam without taxpayers assuming the risk).
Because the dam is not financially viable, we’re especially determined that the world financial community — who is being asked to finance it — become aware of the dam’s shoddy economics. For this reason, we’re heartened that leading financial papers such as the Wall Street Journal have publicized the grandiose project’s precarious balance sheet, and that mass-market journals such as the Reader’s Digest are now covering Three Gorges.
The Chinese government has already moved 100,000 people to make way for the dam, but Dai Qing believes it can still be stopped, if world opinion is mobilized to halt the funding. We agree with her — we’ve stopped other outrageous dams that were further along, and we must stop this one, too.