Water — the Democracy versus the Authoritarian Republic

January 10, 2012

The question should be, “Is freedom of expression and of religion more important than water?”

Survival Topics.com says, “People have survived without food for weeks or even months, but go without water for even just one day and the survivor will be in desperate straights indeed.”

However, how long can one go without total freedom of political expression and to join any global religion? The choices of world religions are many. According to Religious Tolerance.org, “There are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many smaller ones. 34,000 separate Christian groups have been identified in the world.”

One of the most common complains outside China is that its citizens do not have these two abstract freedoms and all of those religions to choose from—China offers seven approved choices.

This post explores which country is doing a better job of supplying water to its people—China or India.  When you finish reading and watching the two videos, you decide which country you would rather live in if you had to make a choice between them.

The National Geographic special issue, “Water, Our Thirsty World” (April 2007) compares the world’s largest democracy, India, with China. In “The Big Melt” by Brook Larmer, we see a convincing reason why China’s mix of socialism and capitalism may be the world’s answer to avoid future calamities. Where Western style democracies stall due to partisanship, special interests, religious beliefs and political agendas, China’s government, ruled by engineers and scientists, appears to be planning decades ahead.

The claims of Tibetan separatists and their supporters that China rules over Tibet with an iron dictatorial fist also appears to be wrong when Larmer visits a family of Tibetan nomads. He writes, “There is no sign of human life on the 14,000 foot high prairie that seems to extend to the end of the world.” Larmer sees “the NOMADS’ tent as a pinprick of white against a canvas of brown.”

We meet Ba O, a Tibetan nomad. In Ba O’s tent, “there is a small Buddhist Shrine: a red prayer wheel and a couple of smudged Tibetan texts…” A few years earlier, Ba O had several hundred sheep and the grass was plentiful. Now the Tibetan nomad has about a hundred left and fears this way of life is ending.

Ba O says, “This is the way we’ve always done things. And we don’t want that to change.”

But no matter what Ba O wants, change is coming, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. The change is not from China’s government. It is from global warming. The Tibetan grasslands are dying and a way of life that has existed for thousands of years may be dying too.

To insure that the Tibetan nomads will have a place to live, China’s government has been building resettlement villages. The “solid built” houses are subsidized. When the Tibetan nomads can no longer survive on the open Tibetan prairie, it is the nomad’s choice to move into the new villages. The government does not force them to give up their old way of life. Nature does that.

Along with the house comes a small annual stipend for each family so they can eat as they find another way to earn a living. The home Larmer visited had a Buddhist shrine and a free satellite dish for a TV and maybe an Internet connection. In addition, the one child policy does not apply to the Tibetan people since they are a minority in China.

To make sure there will continue to be water to drink, China is planning to build 59 reservoirs in Tibet to capture and save glacial runoff.

In India, by comparison, the young wife of a fortuneteller spends hours each day searching for water. She lives with her husband and five children in Delhi, India‘s capital. There are fights over water. In a nearby slum, a teenage boy was beaten to death for cutting into a water line. The demand for water in Delhi exceeds the supply by more than 300 million gallons a day.

What happens to life when there is no water?


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Note—This revised and edited post first appeared April 19, 2010 as Water – Two Countries Tell a Tale

Drought in China

November 3, 2010

China finds itself water challenged in the north and southwest.

Solve Climate News reports that drought had dried up southern China.  Three-hundred-and-ten reservoirs, 580 rivers and 3,600 pools have been baked dry.

Older villagers say reservoirs and irrigation channels are dry for the first time in their lives.

Some blame Global Warming, while environmental activists blame China’s biggest hydro-engineering project, the South-to-North water diversion scheme, which is designed to channel water north to cities such as Beijing and Tianjin.

In fact, that couldn’t be. The South-to-North water diversion will not be completed until 2050 and due to environmental concerns, the western line is still in the planning stages. Only the eastern and central lines are under construction. Source: Water Link International

CNN reports that drought in northern China is threatening crops in at least 12 provinces where more than 3.5 million people and about 2 million livestock live. More than 200 million people live in northern China.

The only region of China that’s getting torrential, record rainfall is southeast China where floods have killed many and displaced thousands. Source Accuweather.com

Much of China’s water originates in Tibet. In southwest China, the Mekong rivers originate on the Tibetan plateau. The Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers comes from the glaciers and melt water of the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.

However, Tibet is melting and turning into a desert.

Learn more at Water – Two Countries Tell a Tale


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

China’s Water Woes

June 16, 2010

A man or woman can survive for weeks without food but only days without water. Knowing that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Tibet will stay in China for some time and water is the reason.

The Yellow River and Yangtze start in Tibet serving more than a third of China’s population. It’s possible that Mao realized the importance of water from Tibet when he sent 40,000 PRC troops into Tibet to reoccupy the former troublesome province/tributary that at the British Empire’s urging broke from China in 1913.

Tibet has an area of about 1.3 million square kilometers (about 5 million square miles) and it is estimated that there are less than 3 million people living in Tibet. China, on the other hand, serves 1.3 billion people, so who benefits the most from water that starts its journey in Tibet?

Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, said, “At least 500 million people in Asia and 250 million people in China are at risk from declining glacial flows on the Tibetan Plateau.” Source: Circle of Blue Waternews

If Tibet’s water were in the hands of anyone else like a free Tibet that might favor other nations over China, China’s future would be dim at best and dire in a worst-case scenario. As it is, China is one of the earth’s driest areas and the challenge to supply 1.3 billion people with water is a daunting task. In fact, China is in a race with disaster and the finish line will be reached in a few decades.

In 1999, Wen Jiabao, a deputy prime minister, warned of looming water shortages. When he became prime minister, he promised to provide clean water for the people. Today, water and waste pollution is the single most serious issue facing China.

However, China has a large and cumbersome bureaucracy.  Different ministries compete with each other meaning little cooperation, which has led to a growing crisis that must be dealt with for China to avoid the suffering, chaos and anarchy that plagued the nation between 1835 and 1950. See China, The Roots of Madness

While replacing thousands of older, coal-burning power plants with cleaner technologies, building more hydroelectric dams, and constructing nuclear reactors, China is also adding desalinations plants to ease the growing water crises. In 2005, a desalination facility south of Shanghai started producing about 375,000 gallons of fresh water an hour, with a goal to build more plants and produce 250 million gallons of water per day by 2010. Source: Environmental News Network

In fact, to achieve this, China contracted with IDE Technologies in Kadima, Israel to build four new desalination units and the first will go on line near Beijing in 2010. These plants are designed to provide desalinated seawater for a power plant’s steam boilers as well as drinking water for local residents. Source: Water and Wastewater.com

According the Global Water Intelligence and the International Desalination Association, as of June 30, 2008, China was ranked 7th among the top ten desalination countries on the planet and that was before the IDE contract. Source: Water Webster

It doesn’t help China’s growing water shortage when mineral resources and a majority of its arable land exist where water is scarcest. Pollution and dealing with human waste are other challenges. Source: Mongabay.com


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.