Three Gorges Probe

Chapter 7

(May 31, 1994)


by Tian Fang and Lin Fatang3

To: Comrade Qiao Shi,4 and the Standing Committee of the Presidium of the First Session of the Eighth National People’s Congress (1993):

We are very concerned about the recent propaganda campaign which argues that the Three Gorges project should start immediately, ahead of the scheduled date. We are making an urgent appeal to the National People’s Congress (NPC) in the hope that it will pay attention to this matter and stop the project as soon as possible.

The Economic Reference reported, on February 28, 1993, that “Lu Youmei has initiated the preparatory work for the construction of the Three Gorges project, and it will be started right away.” The story added: “Lu said that the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation will be officially founded after the National People’s Congress holds its annual meeting in March,” and quoted Lu as saying: “I hope that the comrades currently with the preparation office will not be afraid and just do it [i.e., build the dam]. If they make some mistakes, I will take responsibility for them.”

These daring words indicate that Lu has strong backing, although they are not in keeping with the principle put forth by Premier Li Peng in his government work report outlined at the eighth NPC. There, Li said: “The displaced population should be properly settled, and favorable conditions should actively be created. The project should be started at an appropriate time.” In fact, no one has yet set the exact date for the construction of the project. Nor is there a date for the project’s completion. In making these statements, Lu placed himself well above the NPC and the State Council, especially in his claim that he would take responsibility for the mistakes of others.

We may ask whether Lu Youmei is capable of bearing the responsibility for mistakes made in such an important project, which is vitally important to both the national economy and the livelihoods of future generations.

The resolution to construct the project, which was passed by the seventh NPC, states:

With regard to future work on the Three Gorges project, research shall continue towards the proper solution of the potential problems that have been identified. We must be cautious, treat problems very seriously, and welcome the opinions of all interested parties. In so doing, the construction of the Three Gorges project will be made safer and more reliable.

The resolution also says that:

The State Council shall, by taking into consideration the realistic conditions of the national economic development and the financial and material capabilities of the state, seek to organize its implementation at an appropriate time.

These statements are absolutely correct. A number of major problems that have recently surfaced have been ignored by past studies. However, Lu has never paid attention to them. It is clear that the “appropriate time” is not simply an issue of starting the project one or two years earlier or later. Rather, the “appropriate time” must take into account the strategic planning of the national economy. The essential principle of economic development in our country, which was described by Comrade Deng Xiaoping in his two important speeches in the springs of 1992 and 1993, and by Premier Li Peng in his report on government work, is to take advantage of current opportunities to speed up the pace of economic reform, and to thereby promote the national economy to a new phase in the next five years.5 The leaders of the Three Gorges project, however, have paid no attention to this development principle. Instead, they have insisted on the immediate construction of the project. They intend to draw the nation’s limited financial and material resources into a super project, which will not generate income for more than 10 years. The desire to start the project immediately, particularly in the current over heated economic situation, is not in keeping with the development principle outlined above.

Lu Youmei’s proposal to start the project immediately would constitute poor macro-economic decision making and would cause the nation to lose an historical opportunity to develop.

The Communist Party has long been seeking more democratic and scientifically sound decision-making processes. The leaders in charge of the Three Gorges project, however, have long followed different practices. They excluded experts with different opinions from the assessment report groups, and imposed a news blackout on opposition opinions. The major newspapers of the central government showed their bias by concentrating on one-sided stories, which promoted only the opinions favoring an immediate or early start to the project. Opposing ideas were not allowed to be voiced publicly.

At the first meeting of the eighth NPC, Premier Li Peng stated:

We should establish and improve the democratic processes of work, and pay attention to the studies and consultant reports when making decisions. We should pay attention to the opinions of all interested parties. We should strive to achieve more democratic and scientifically sound decision-making processes.

Unfortunately, Li’s instructions were ignored in the studies of the Three Gorges project.

We wrote and published in sequence three books on the Three Gorges Project in 1987, 1989 and 1992, namely: On a Long-Range Strategy for the Three Gorges Project, A Second Look at a Long-Range Strategy for the Three Gorges Project, and A Third Look at a Long-Range Strategy for the Three Gorges Project. These books analyzed, from many different perspectives, the reasons why the Three Gorges project, instead of being started immediately, should be constructed as late as possible. Since we presented these books to you and other leaders of the Party and state, we have been harassed, attacked and falsely accused of being opponents. The situation is now barely tolerable. On the occasion of the first session of the eighth NPC, we appeal to you-please stop the rash actions of Lu Youmei and his goal of starting the project immediately. Please remove the restrictions on airing opposition opinions on the project. This would bless the nation and its people!
We invite criticism and instructions if this piece contains any inappropriate wording.

Best regards,
Tian Fang, Lin Fatang
The Economic Research Institute of The State Planning Commission

Sources and Further Commentary

1General manager of the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation.

2This letter, written prior to the National People’s Congress meeting in March, 1993, was not part of the original Chinese edition of Yangtze! Yangtze!

3Tian Fang is a former director of the Research Institute of Planned Economy, of the State Planning Commission. An expert on population relocation, his interest in Three Gorges began in the 1930s.
Lin Fatang is a researcher at the Research Institute of Planned Economy. He is an expert in the distribution of productive forces, including the overall planning for coal mining, electricity, oil, and transportation.

4Current chairman of the National People’s Congress.

5The Three Gorges project requires a planned, centrally controlled economy rather than a decentralized market economy to survive. In a centrally planned economy a small number of individuals would be able to force local economies to bear the costs of the project for the sake of the “higher interests” of the nation.

Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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