The Upstream Superpower: China’s Transboundary River Policies


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When: Feb 17 2017 - 12:30pm until Feb 17 2017 - 1:30pm
Where: 1819 L St NW, Sixth Floor Conference Room, Washington DC, 20036

The Upstream Superpower: China’s Transboundary River Policies

An Asia Pacific Foreign Policy and Defense Seminar featuring:

Dr. Selina Ho
Senior Research Fellow, Centre on Asia and Globalisation,
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

The Upstream Superpower: China’s Transboundary River Policies from East-West Center on Vimeo.

Dr. Selina Ho and Dr. Satu Limaye.

A significant aspect of China’s power is its role as the upstream superpower of Asia. It is the upstream riparian on many of Asia’s most important international rivers, including the Mekong, Brahmaputra, Sutlej, Indus, Salween, and Irrawaddy, among others. Its predominant economic and military power gives it significant advantages over its smaller and weaker downstream neighbors.

In this seminar, Dr. Selina Ho discusses China’s behavior as a hydro-hegemon. She first compares China’s and India’s roles as hydro-hegemons. Hydro-hegemons can provide both positive and negative forms of leadership, the former leading to cooperative outcomes and the latter to conflict in transboundary river basins. Using case studies of the Mekong and the Ganges, Dr. Ho examines the constraints on China and India as hydro-hegemons, and the conditions under which they would cooperate or not cooperate with other riparians. Dr. Ho then discusses the specific motivations for China’s transboundary water cooperation with Kazakhstan. China’s relatively higher level of institutionalized cooperation with Kazakhstan is the result of linkages between water issues and a cluster of political, economic, security, and strategic issues. China’s transboundary water cooperation with Kazakhstan offers useful lessons for smaller and weaker downstream states seeking cooperation from stronger upstream states.

To read Dr. Ho's Asia Pacific Bulletin "Power Asymmetry in the China-India Brahmaputra River Dispute," click here. 

 For more images, please visit the album for this event on the East-West Center's Flickr page. 

Dr. Selina Ho is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. She specializes in Chinese politics and foreign policy, with a focus on resource politics. She is most interested in water as a strategic resource. In this regard, she is working on a project examining China’s international behavior with respect to its transboundary rivers. She has published several journal articles and book chapters on this topic. She is also writing a book manuscript comparing China’s and India’s approaches to public goods provision, focusing specifically on their municipal water sectors. Dr. Ho received her Ph.D. from The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, where she also received a Master’s in International Public Policy (Honors). She did her undergraduate studies at the National University of Singapore, graduating with a B.A. in History (Honors). Prior to joining academia, Dr. Ho was a Singapore public servant working on defense and security issues.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Sarah Wang
Phone: 2023279755