Scott Moore is Giorgio Ruffolo Doctoral Research Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School. He was a guest researcher at Brookings’ John L. Thornton China Center and Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy in the spring of 2012.
Among the many challenges to China’s current economic development trajectory, water resource constraints are among the most worrisome. According to Barry Naughton, one of the foremost experts on the Chinese economy, “China’s greatest development challenges…are in the areas where a dense population pushes up against the limits of water and what the land can provide.” The water resource challenge to China’s development is exceptionally complex, encompassing a blend of geographical, political, economic, and social dimensions. This Issue Brief describes the root causes of China’s water resource challenge, assesses the Chinese government’s policy response to date, and finally offers recommendations to increase the effectiveness of these policies.
In short, China’s water resource challenge consists of both water quantity and quality issues, each of which present distinctive challenges for Chinese policy. Although the Chinese government is implementing perhaps the world’s most ambitious water resource management strategy, its efforts risk being undermined by inter-governmental rivalries, corruption, and incentives that favor economic development over sustainable resource use. In particular, inter-jurisdictional conflicts over water resources threaten to undermine policies to address water scarcity, while mis-matched incentives between pollution control and economic development at local levels of government threaten to undermine water quality control objectives.
Read the article on Brookings.edu: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/02/water-politics-china-moore