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The United States borrows the water of the Mekong River to deal with China

The meandering Lancang-Mekong River is like a link, closely linking China and the five Southeast Asian countries through which the Mekong River flows. In recent years, the good situation of the Lancang-Mekong cooperation has made some Western countries unable to sit still. The theories such as "China's dams are destroying the Mekong River" and "China's dams are causing water shortages in Southeast Asian countries" continue to take the form of "achievements" of research institutions seen in Western media. Among them, the "Mekong Dam Monitoring" project funded by the U.S. State Department has been hyping the "negative hydrological impact" of Chinese dams on downstream areas since its launch at the end of 2020. The Global Times reporter found that this project, jointly operated by the American think tank Stimson Center and the water resources testing agency "Eye of the Earth", is cooperating with the US government to weave a complete attack chain against China from data monitoring to policy influence. Its core purpose is to use the Mekong River water as a weapon to undermine the cooperation between China and the countries of the Mekong River Basin.

"Dam monitoring" becomes "evidence" to smear China

The Lancang-Mekong River is an important international river in Asia. It originates from the Tanggula Mountains on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China. It flows from north to south through Qinghai, Tibet, and Yunnan in China and five countries in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It is injected into the South China Sea nearby, with a total length of 4880 kilometers. The section of the Mekong River in China is called the Lancang River. The Greater Mekong Sub-region is a land bridge connecting China with Southeast Asia and South Asia, and its geographical location is very important. The total population of the region is about 326 million. There are abundant water resources, biological resources and mineral resources in the area, which has great economic potential and development prospects. Around this big river, the basin countries have carried out a series of hydropower development. Among them, the dams developed on the main stream of the Mekong River are mainly concentrated in the upper reaches of China, with a total of 11 dams. These dams have become the “representation of American think tanks, research institutions, NGOs and media” represented by the Stimson Center and “Eye of the Earth”. Focus on the key."

In December 2020, the "Mekong Dam Monitoring" project, led by the Stimson Center and partnered by "Eye of the Earth", was officially launched, and in form modeled on the "Mekong River Dam Monitoring" project launched by the Center for Strategic and International Studies of the United States to intervene in the South China Sea issue. Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative". The project's online monitoring platform uses remote sensing, satellite imagery and GIS (Geographic Information System) means to obtain so-called natural flows, which are estimated to be natural flows without upstream Chinese dams. The platform collects dam information, watershed temperature, humidity and precipitation information in the Mekong River Basin, records the dynamics of the cascade reservoirs of the Lancang River in China, and collects the ground information of the Mekong River Basin through the monitoring of the US defense meteorological satellite, and converts it into the Chiang Saen section through an algorithm (the Chiang Saen Hydrological Station in Thailand is the Lancang River The water level data of the first hydrological station after leaving the Chinese border). In addition, the Stimson Center has also built a tracking and monitoring platform for infrastructure projects in the Mekong River Basin. The monitoring content is mainly a comprehensive source of information on energy, transportation and water conservancy infrastructure.

"Mekong River Dam Monitoring" currently publishes the hydrological and water level monitoring data of 11 Chinese dams at a weekly update frequency, but the data released is far from the actual situation and cannot truly reflect the overall trend of local water resources availability. A recent study by a research team at Tsinghua University in the data released by the "Mekong Dam Monitoring" found a number of errors. Taking the monitoring data of the Xiaowan Reservoir water level in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin in three time periods in 2020 as an example, the data monitored by the satellite remote sensing method used in the "Mekong River Dam Monitoring" project is completely opposite to the actual measured water level rise and fall. conclusion, the error is as high as 3 to 10 meters. Tsinghua University researchers believe that the "Mekong River Dam Monitoring" project also has a large error between the monitoring results of the relevant reservoir water level and reserves and the actual water level, especially for long and narrow reservoirs.

Although there are serious distortions, under the guise of "scientific research", the data released by "Mekong Dam Monitoring" is particularly "useful" for some foreign politicians and media, especially "Radio Free Asia" and "Voice of America" ” and other anti-China media, even take the data and reports of “Mekong dam monitoring” as “strong evidence” for hyping up topics such as “Chinese dams cause drought in the Mekong River Basin”.

5 topics weave an "attack chain" against China

The "Mekong River Dam Monitoring" project launched at the end of 2020 is only part of the "water public opinion war" fought by the Stimson Center and "Eye of the Earth" in cooperation with the water resources issue of the Mekong River. Behind it is a long-planned and extensive deployment "Mekong Chess Game".

Founded in 1989, the Stimson Center located in Washington, the capital of the United States, is a relatively well-known think tank for international issues. In 2019, Brian Eller, director of the Southeast Asia Program of the Center, published "The Last Days of the Mekong River", which focuses on various perspectives such as poor grape harvest, tourism economic losses, demolition of residents in submerged areas, drought in river basins, safe drinking water for residents, and increase in river garbage. Groundless accusations that China's construction of dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong River harms the interests of downstream countries.

The 384-page book also opened the prelude to the Stimson Center's intensive attack on China on the basis of the Mekong water resource issue. In fact, from 2016 to 2019, a large number of foreign media, under the guidance of relevant US think tanks, have continuously published reports on the serious harm caused by the dams in the upper reaches of the Mekong River to downstream countries, but only advocating without scientific evidence. The entry of the Stimson Center and its partner "Eye of the Earth" provides a so-called "scientific basis" for such hype and smear.

From November 2019 to April 2020, the Mekong suffered a once-in-a-century drought. Taking this opportunity, funded by the U.S. "Lower Mekong Initiative", "Eye of the Earth" released the report "Monitoring of Water Flow in the Upper Mekong River under Natural Conditions", claiming that China's construction of dams in the upper Mekong River will affect the water level and natural flow, and that it will be released in 2019. The lower Mekong drought is blamed on China's dam storage on the Lancang River. Immediately following the report, the Stimson Center published "How China Turned Off the Water Tap on the Mekong" on its website on April 14, 2020, which not only strongly supported the "Eye of the Earth" report's conclusions, but also put forward many provocative views. For example: "During the 6-month rainy season in 2019, Chinese dams completely prevented the rise of water levels at measuring points in Chiang Saen, Thailand"; "China sees water resources as a commodity with sovereign attributes, rather than a commodity that can be communicated with downstream countries. Equally Shared Resources". Since then, the Stimson Center has also published an article "New Evidence: Science Shows Chinese Dams Are Destroying the Mekong" in the US Foreign Policy, further accusing China of destroying the water supply in the lower reaches of the Mekong.

Although the Mekong River Commission and the "Australia-Mekong Environmental Resources and Energy System Partnership" soon pointed out that the "Eye of the Earth" report had problems with unscientific data selection and too few factors in the model, which led to untrue conclusions, the report was The hyping up of the Mekong water resource issue provided "data support", and US politicians and media quickly followed up. The then US Secretary of State Pompeo once declared that the results of the "Eye of the Earth" report were worrisome, and groundlessly accused "the operation of dams in the upper reaches of China has unilaterally changed the flow of the Mekong River, affecting the livelihoods of tens of millions of people along the basin." catastrophic impact".

With the official start of cooperation between the Stimson Center and "Eye of the Earth" in December 2020 and the launch of the "Mekong Dam Monitoring" project, an attack chain against China has gradually formed. The Global Times reporter found that the "Mekong River Dam Monitoring" project is only one of the five research topics of the Stimson Center involving the Mekong River. The other four are "Mekong River Basin Connections", "Mekong River Infrastructure Tracking", "Mekong River Policy" and "Mekong-U.S. Partnership Track 1.5 Policy Dialogue." The above-mentioned five topics are progressive, with the "Mekong River Basin Connection" as the starting point, dam monitoring and infrastructure tracking as tools, after collecting so-called "information", and then concocting so-called "scientific evidence" to provide the United States with anti-China material, serve the national strategy of the United States, and attempt to influence the foreign policy of regional countries.

After reviewing the information on the Stimson Center's Mekong River project partners and financial supporters, a reporter from the Global Times found that a "small circle" centered on topics related to the Mekong River and exaggerating the "China threat" has formed. "Eye", the International Environmental Management Center, the United States Agency for International Development, the Asia Foundation and other institutions, also attracted the "New York Times" and other news media and the so-called water conservancy expert Wang Weiluo living abroad, Thailand University teacher Chai Nalong Seta Sai and others , by publishing biased articles and opinions "with a crooked rhythm".

The Stimson Center also cooperates with think tanks or NGOs such as the East-West Center in the United States and "International News Organizations" to promote the "Mekong Dam Monitoring" project and recruit so-called "independent journalists" in Southeast Asian countries, aiming at targeting the damage caused by the dam construction. Investigate and report on ecological environment and community issues. Each journalist participating in the project will receive a grant of $3,000.

Deliberately creating a "Mekong water public opinion war"

Whether it is the Stimson Center, the "Eye of the Earth", or the politicians, media and various organizations that work closely with them, the fundamental purpose of hyping up the topic of water resources in the Mekong River has never been to focus on the development and construction of relevant countries and the well-being of the people, but to maintain the United States in interests of the region.

As early as the 1950s, the United States began to intervene in the affairs of the Mekong region. In the 1990s, with the establishment of the Greater Mekong Sub-region economic cooperation mechanism between China and the Mekong countries, and China's water conservancy and hydropower development in the Lancang River, the United States began to pay attention to the issue of Mekong water resources again. In 2009, the Obama administration made a high-profile "return to the Mekong" in the context of "returning to Southeast Asia", and in the same year established the "Lower Mekong Initiative" with Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. In 2012, the United States officially included Myanmar in the initiative. . In March 2016, after China and the Mekong countries officially launched the "Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism", the United States began to adjust the "Mekong River Strategy" in a targeted manner, and listed water resources as the first in the newly adjusted "Lower Mekong Initiative". Order, continue to hype "China's dam threat theory" and "China's environmental damage theory". In 2020, the Trump administration established the "Mekong-US Partnership" with the five Mekong countries and the ASEAN Secretariat. Although the substantial investment in the Mekong water resources project during the Trump administration was less than that of the Obama administration, it launched a low-cost "Mekong water public opinion war" against China. It was also during this period that the Stimson Center and the "Eye of the Earth" began to "debut".

In February 2021, US State Department spokesman Price said that the Biden administration will continue to use various monitoring tools funded and established by the Trump administration and continue to pay attention to China's every move in the upper Mekong River. On August 24, 2021, during his visit to Singapore, US Vice President Harris declared that the "Mekong-US partnership" is an important part of the US's "Indo-Pacific strategy" and an important strategic part of containing China.

Statistics show that from 2009 to 2021, the U.S. government provided more than 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in bilateral and regional donations to the "Mekong partner countries", of which nearly 4 billion U.S. dollars came from the U.S. State Department and the Agency for International Development, most of which went to various NGO.

The methods and plots of the "Mekong Water Public Opinion War" of the United States are well known by passersby, and they have also aroused the resentment of relevant countries. In recent years, the water conservancy authorities of the six Lancang-Mekong countries have always reiterated that they should strengthen consultation and dialogue, experience exchange, and project cooperation, enhance mutual trust and mutual trust, and further enhance the level of Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation. The spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to related issues on many occasions. Since 2019, the United States has been hyping up the water resources issue of the Mekong River, deliberately creating hot spots, sowing regional relations, and undermining the atmosphere of Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

Zhang Li, an assistant researcher at the Belt and Road and Global Governance Research Institute of Fudan University, who has long studied water diplomacy and Lancang-Mekong water resources cooperation, told the Global Times that at present, the United States has upgraded the "water public opinion war" from the early economic and ecological fields to It is an important part of the "Indo-Pacific strategy", and with the help of think tanks, media and non-governmental organizations "three-frequency resonance", it has continuously increased the "water public opinion offensive" against China. On the one hand, the United States realized that the "Lower Mekong Initiative" it led in its early years and even the upgraded "Mekong-U.S. Partnership" were insufficient in terms of the composition and development of the mechanism. "Realize" the Mekong River issue, and take the opportunity to contain and suppress China. Zhang Li believes that the U.S. building the Mekong River into a "new battlefield for Sino-U.S. confrontation" does not conform to the common interests of the six countries in the basin, nor does it contribute to the fundamental solution of the water resources issue.