Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

China’s Three Gorges Dam At The Brink

If current record flooding breaches giant dam, China's industrial heartland will be underwater
Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 8.43.00 PM

Terrible news from China, the gravity of which is somewhat downplayed by the bland language of this Xinhua report:

The Huaihe River Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources on Monday raised the emergency response for flood control to Level I, the highest of the four-tier emergency response system, due to the grim flood situation.

The water level at the Wangjiaba hydrological station on the main course of the Huaihe River had risen to 29.66 meters by 6:36am Monday , exceeding the guaranteed level of 29.3 meters, according to the commission located in the city of Bengbu, east China’s Anhui Province.

The guaranteed water level refers to the upper limit of the water level that ensures the safety of the embankments and affiliated projects.

The 1,000-kilometer Huaihe is one of China’s major waterways, running through the country’s east between the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.

The Huaihe main course is facing rising flood risks, as heavy rain is forecast in the region over the next three days, the Ministry of Emergency Management warned on Sunday.

China’s massive Three Gorges Dam project on the upper Yangtze River is at risk. If that dam breaks, the resulting flooding would be a catastrophe of world-historical proportions. Hundreds of millions of people live along the lower Yangtze River. And the catastrophe wouldn’t simply be confined to China. The lower Yangtze is China’s commercial and industrial heartland — which means it is perhaps the world’s most important economic region. If it is swept away by a torrent, it could easily crater the already weak world economy.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Cheng reports on the mounting crisis. The story is behind a paywall, but everybody can watch his video summary. Please do — these images are dramatic:

Cheng says that the flood has already raised the water dammed behind the Three Gorges to 50 — fifty — feet higher than the maximum flood level. Rain is still falling this week in central China. I am told by a Chinese media follower that the government has just raised the emergency level in five affected provinces — Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu — to the highest level below martial law, as part of last-ditch efforts to protect the Three Gorges Dam. The state is releasing water from tributary dams, flooding those provinces even worse than they already have been, because the alternative — a Three Gorges Dam collapse — is unthinkable. The WSJ’s Cheng said that China has had its worst economic year in four decades because of Covid, but if that dam goes, the damage to China’s economy will “dwarf” what Covid has done to it.

I cannot help thinking about this January 26 post on this blog, in which reader Wyoming Doc, whose wife is Chinese, reported that Chinese soothsayers were predicting that 2020 would be a year of suffering in China. From that post:

We have just had all our neighbors over for Chinese New Year last night — about 20 guests in all. My wife is a phenomenal cook — and spent the whole week making dumplings and noodles made from scratch out of rice shipped from her home province Ningxia. Rice from this province is considered the best rice in the world to the Chinese palate. Add this to the multiple dozens of meat and vegetable dishes and you can only imagine – good times had by all. Their New Year is basically our Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all wrapped up into one.

Now I am going to get to the part of this whole past few days that has really bugged me and made me hesitate to write this comment. As usual, I have heard not a word about any of what I am about to write in the American media — and I believe it to be profoundly germane to the suffering currently going on in mainland China.

The Chinese people are still very, very attached to their ancient Zodiac. Much much more than our Zodiac affects our lives here. This includes my wife — a woman with a PhD from one of the top universities in the world. This stuff really still matters to her. We had to visit a fortune teller — 91 year old Mr Su — straight out of Hollywood central casting for a Charlie Chan movie — to determine our wedding date and year — whether I, a horse, was compatible with her, a dragon — and what animal our children should be — they ended up being sheep — a winning combo for all, etc. etc. etc. Mr. Su and his tea leaves have played a profound part in our lives. And this plays a profound part in the lives of billions of Chinese — especially those from more rural areas. To some degree in their hearts they really believe this stuff — despite the decades Chairman Mao spent trying to strangle it.

All most Americans are aware of is that this is The Year of the Rat — starting last night. This is true — and determined by a rotating 12 year cycle of animals — sheep, monkey, snake, dog, etc. What most Americans do not know is that there are two other cycles going at the same time — one of earth elements (5 in total) — fire, gold, water, etc — and one called the Celestial Tree — of which I have little idea to explain other than there are 10 of them. Last night actually started the Year of the Golden Rat and then some extra words related to the Celestial Tree which I think do not translate to English very well.

Why is this important? Let me share this anecdote. My wife told me back in November — that starting on JAN 25 — the year of suffering will begin. It is not uncommon in these years for the New Year not to be celebrated either by choice or by force — and that bad things can really get started. She stated this as a matter of fact. In multiple times in thousands of years of Chinese history — this particular Zodiac year has been a turning point and not for the good.

Apparently this combo of these three Zodiac cycles that began last night is snake-eyes — it is the most ominous and foreboding of any year. I know as a rational human being not to believe this stuff — and I do feel my wife feels the same way at least to some degree — but I worry about the Chinese people, and how this kind of thing can rapidly spiral into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Very strange and unexpected things can happen in times of mass delusion.

He added:

Rod, I have two screenshots from her iPhone wechat (Chinese version of Facebook). These are dated in Nov 2019 and were sent to her groupserv for the Tshinghua alumni. This is part of what I am saying – even those very well educated people find the need to send this around.

Both are in Mandarin. One of them lists off all the previous Golden Rat years and lists off the disasters that occurred. It then gets to 2020 – and right off the bat warns that a plague will come early in the year. That healthy people will just drop dead – and exhorting people not to eat wild game meat – you cannot make this stuff up. The remainder of the year will be filled with flooding and great hardship. Then the rest of it is some kind of astronomical discussion that despite my wife’s best effort I just simply do not understand.

If you read Mandarin, you can go to the whole post and see the screenshots of the November 2019 posts yourself.

By the way, check the date on when Covid-19 in China began to rise:





Want to join the conversation?

Subscribe for as little as $5/mo to start commenting on Rod’s blog.

Join Now