The Three Gorges Project. Part II: The History of TGP.
"Mount Wu's clouds and rains are kept away from the countryside;
Calm lakes spring up in the high gorges."
- Mao, Zedong, in Swimming, May 1956.
In his plan to reconstruct the nation, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen proposed for the
first time to build a dam near the Three Gorges. In 1932, the Nationalist
Party (KMT) established a committee to investigate the Three Gorges area
and proposed a low dam project. In 1944, Dr. Savage, an American
hydraulician, came to China to re-investigate the project. The Nationalist
government then sent 50 Chinese experts to America to design the first high
dam at the Three Gorges. As a result, a dam of over 200 meters high was
proposed. That marked the historical beginning of TGP, although it had
never been seriously considered in practice due to the Japanese invasion and
the following civil war.
TGP was brought back to the agenda after the founding of PRC, and
has been the favorite project of the new leaders ever since. The high dam
project was intensely disputed in the 50's. Two years after writing his
romantic Shui Diuo Gou Tou, Swimming, Mao started the infamous Greap
Leap movement which soon lead the whole country to starvation. It was
surprising, however, that in that very year (1958), the government decided
to take a careful approach to TGP and limited the dam to be below 200
meters. It was probably the only rational decision made at the Chengdu
Conference, at the time when the atmosphere was red hot. Only after a year,
however, at the Lu Shan Conference , the key opponent of TGP, Mr. Li Rui,
then a minister of the Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power
(MWREP, Shui Dian Bu), lost his post for supporting Marshal Peng. Nearly all
of the Li's subordinates with similar views were categorized as "Li Rui's anti-
revolutionary gang". The government then ordered about 10,000 scientists
and engineers to design and prepare for TGP, a project which was no longer
controversial. This effort was finally abolished during the "difficult times"
(as CCP puts it) of the early 60's and the following Cultural Revolution.
After the country recovered from the turmoil, TGP was proposed again
in 1979, with the approval of Mao's hand-picked heir Hua Guofeng.
However, it was said that TGP was opposed by Zhao Ziyang, then the party
secretary of Sichuan province . In 1983, the Yangtze Valley Planning
Office (YVPO, "Chang Ban" in Chinese), the major proponent of TGP under
MWREP (Shui Dian Bu), proposed the "150-meter scheme" (in which the
number refers to the normal water level). "Chang Ban" also proposed (and
got approved by the government) to start the preparative work for TGP
during 1984-85 and to establish the preparatory committees for the project
and for the new Sanxia province. After it was publicized, the decision was
challenged at the conferences of the People's Congress ("Ren Da") and the
Political Consultative Committee ("Zheng Xie"). The latter then organized its
own research committee to investigate the feasibility of TGP and reported
the negative results to the government in 1985.
In 1986, Li Peng, then the vice premier, promised to treat TGP with
"an active and a careful" attitude and to reinvestigate the feasibility of the
project. In order to secure the financial support from outside China, the
government accepted Canada's offer to finance the feasibility research and
established Canadian International Project Managers - Yangtze Joint Venture.
The outcome of their two-year's study, though widely criticized after it was
published , turned out to be positive. The feasibility research of TGP
within China had been coordinated by the less biased State Planning
Commission (Ji Wei) and the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS, Zhong Ke
Yuan). Also in 1986, that task was somehow transfered to MWREP ("Shui
Dian Bu"), a strong proponent of TGP. Two years later, the results came out
without much surprise, except the version of the project was upgraded to the
180-meter scheme. When the overwhelming majority of the more than 400
invited experts signed their names to approve the feasibility of TGP, only 10
"dissidents" refused to put down their signatures.
However, the society was not simply silenced this time. TGP has
worried many scientists, engineers, economists, and journalists in China.
Some of them have finally formed a group, which we can now label as "the
opponents of TGP". Due to their effort, works recording the views of
dissidence on TGP, such as "On the Macro-Level Decision Making on the
Three Gorges Project" and "Whether the Chang Jiang Three Gorges Project
Should be Started", were published. For the first time in nearly 40 years,
this controversial project was introduced to the the public and drew
attention of many intellectuals. But under the current situation in China, it
is a big question whether these different opinions will receive proper
consideration in the decision-making process.
(to be continued)
 At the Lu Shan Conference in 1959, Marshal Peng Dehuai was
humiliated and kicked out of the top level of CCP for his criticism of Mao's
Greap Leap movement, a nationwide experiment which started the environmental
deterioration and caused the death of at least 20 million people due to the
food shortage in the later years.
 It was believed that Mr. Zhao opposed TGP at the time because the
150-meter scheme would benefit Hubei province, but deteriorate navigation
in Sichuan province.
 See Ryder, Grainne (1988). China's Three Gorges Project: Whose Dam
Business Is It? Cultural Survival Quarterly. 12 (2): 17-19.
- Chianfan Zhang;