Author Archives: William Feinberg

About William Feinberg

William Feinberg is a budding Southeast Asia scholar based in Kunming, Yunnan. His focus is on issues of human migration in Southeast Asia, but writes on everything from agriculture to infrastructure. Outside of East by Southeast, his hobbies include hiking, piano and Northern Thai cuisine.

8 Killed, 18 injured in Yunnan construction fracas

Police respond to the incident in Jinning County

According to local government sources, eight people were killed after a fight broke out between construction workers and villagers in Jinning County, located 60 km south of the provincial capital Kunming.

The county government reported the incident on its Sina Weibo account on October 15, a day after the fight occurred. According to sources, the incident happened at a construction site for the Jincheng Transasia Industrial Logistics Center in Fuyou Village. The fight broke out after a dispute over farm land used for the logistics center. Police reported that of the eight people killed, two were villagers and six were construction workers.

However, local villagers interviewed by Caixin said that the so-called construction workers were actually an unknown group of people. They reportedly attacked the villagers using knives and tear gas. The alleged attackders were clad in black and some carried shields that bore what looked to be police symbols. According to unconfirmed reports online, four of the unknown attackers were burned to death by the farmers. Police were called, but arrived after the fighting had stopped.

Disputes over land requisition are a common theme in rural China and Southeast Asia, as industry expands outside previous city borders and into traditional farm land. In China, most of the thousands of protests and riots that happen annually are linked with disputes over land requisition. Oftentimes, compensation given to rural villagers is also an issue, as has been documented by ExSE in its series on hydropower development on the Yalong River.

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Filed under China, Current Events, Governance, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

Jinggu Earthquake – 1 dead, 324 injured in Yunnan; are hydropower dams in danger?

Earthquake damage in Jinggu County, Yunnan

A major earthquake has struck China’s Yunnan province for the second time in just over two months. Last night at 9:49pm (Beijing time), a 6.0-magnitude quake occurred in Jinggu County, Pu’er Prefecture. According to Xinhua News Agency, the current death toll stands at 1, with a further 324 people injured.

The epicenter of the quake was 22 km west-southwest from Weiyuan Township and it struck at a focal depth of 10.9 km beneath the surface. Luckily, the earthquake occurred in a sparsely populated area of the province, and there have a relatively few casualties as a result. However, according to local authorities, a total of 92,700 people were affected by the quake, with 56, 880 of them being relocated. Within hours of the earthquake,  thousands of search and rescue personnel had been transported to the county and were undertaking operations.

Aftershocks were felt in the area for hours after the initial quake, and the largest registered at 4.2 on the Richter scale. Tremors were also felt throughout the province, with friends of East by Southeast feeling the earthquake in Kunming, almost 400 km away from the epicenter.

Closer to the center of the earthquake are a number of major hydropower dams. According to ExSE’s research, a total of 10 hydropower stations are in a 200 km radius of Weiyuan Township, some of them high-wall dams with installed capacities of over 1000 MW. The closest is the 1,350 MW Dachaoshan Dam (大朝山大坝), located just 60 km from the earthquake’s epicenter and . Yayangshan Dam (崖羊山大坝), the first in a 1,300 MW, seven-dam cascade on Yunnan’s Black River (墨江) is 85 km away and  The third closest, the Nuozhadu Dam (糯扎渡大坝), is located 118 km from the earthquake’s epicenter.

Southwest China is a seismic hotbed where earthquakes are quite common and in the past 6 years alone, there have been a number of major earthquakes in the region. The Wenchuan Earthquake (2008) killed more than 70,00 people while more recently, earthquakes in Ya’an, Sichuan (2013) and Ludian, Yunnan (August 2014), killed 220 people and 617 people, respectively. At the same time, Southwest China’s mountainous geography and wealth of major rivers makes it ideal for hydropower development.

In the past 30 years, hundreds of dams have been built in the region, however their placement in a such a seismically active area is problematic. First, there is evidence to suggest that major hydropower dams can be a factor in seismic activity. In the aftermath of the 2008 Wechuan Earthquake, a number of scientists found that the placement of a dam and its large reservoir over an active fault line could have caused the quake. Secondly, dams and reservoirs can sustain major damage in the event of a large earthquake in its vicinity. Following the 8.0-magnitude  Wenchuan Earthquake, the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources found that 2,380 dams were damaged.

Yesterday’s quake was of a smaller magnitude than the Wenchuan Earthquake so the potential for damage is smaller and at the time of publication, there have not been any reports of any of the 10 dams in Jinggu County’s vicinity sustaining damage. However, ExSE will continue to cover the aftermath of the Jinggu Earthquake and the recovery and rescue efforts undertaken.

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Filed under China, Current Events, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

Bottlenecks to Development: Challenges in the Mekong Delta

Last week, ExSE took a hard look at the environmental challenges facing the Mekong Delta region and found that the prospects are not good. Due to unenviable geography and global warming, rising sea levels, higher average temperatures and irregular precipitation patterns will all converge in the next 50 years to change the face of the Mekong Delta (MKD). That’s to say nothing of salinity intrusion, flooding and tropical storms. However, the MKD’s problems are not only environmental in nature; the region’s economy also faces a host of challenges, many of them tied to the Delta’s environmental changes.

Issues in the Mekong Delta are of course significant for its residents, but they also carry great importance for those outside the region because of the MKD’s role in national and regional food security. The statistics on the Delta are incredible. In an area taking up just 36,000 square kilometers (12 % of Vietnam’s total area), the Delta’s 22 million inhabitants plant 2.6 rice crops per year totaling 25 million tons of rice. The MKD’s rice production accounts for over half of Vietnam’s total and the seven million tons rice that the Delta exports has helped Vietnam become the world’s second largest rice exporter after Thailand. In addition, the Delta accounts for 70% of Vietnam’s fruit production and three-quarters of its fish catch.

The Delta’s massive agricultural output is no accident. The region is perfectly situated to receive large amounts of water and sediment from the three main stems of the Mekong Delta and the many thousands of canals that intersect them and a tropical temperature allows for farming year-round. What’s more, concerted efforts in the past 30 years to improve the region’s water infrastructure have doubled arable land in the MKD. Combined with advances in genetically modified rice strains, yields in the Delta have increased by 30% and total production has doubled, all within the past 20 years.

Incomes have also increased. According to the General Statistics Office of Vietnam (GSO), the average income of Delta residents has gone from 50 cents USD/day in 1999 to $2/day in 2010 and the region reached it Millennium Development Goals in 2006. However, despite impressive improvements in agricultural output and per capita income, the Delta has lost ground to other regions of Vietnam and now lags behind in important measurements of human and economic development.

Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam.

Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam.

In the late 1990’s, the Delta was actually 20% above the national average in per capita income. However more than 10 years later, the number stands at a little more than 80%. In the first decade of the new millennium, Vietnam underwent a period of intense economic growth through industrialization and people all over the country got richer as a result. The benefits of economic growth were not felt equally by everyone, however. Due to development bottlenecks, some regions, including the Mekong Delta, did not industrialize like others

One of these bottlenecks is a lack of infrastructure. The proportion of waterways, intra-provincial roads and inter-provincial roads per thousand people are all behind the national average. Of these three measures, the proportion of inter-provincial roads stands out. For one, there are only 0.34km of them per 1000 people in the Delta, standing at only half of the national average. This is especially important because of the nature of the Delta’s economy. The MKD, because its economy is so heavily concentrated in agriculture, lacks many necessary products and thus has a long history of importing and exporting nearly everything. While this may be good for enterprising middlemen, it is not good for the region’s economic development. With so few avenues for importing and exporting goods, the logisitical cost rises and because the MKD lacks so many raw materials, industrial development becomes disadvantageous. In fact, unless an investor is interested in agricultural processing, building a factory closer to Ho Chi Minh City is probably a better business plan in many cases.

Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam

Measure of waterway, inter-provincial roads and intra-provincial roads in the Delta. Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam

A second bottleneck, and another reason a potential investor might not consider the Delta, is a lack of skilled labor. Like the region’s road density, the MKD’s percentage of trained labor lags behind the national average; according to data collected by GSO (General Statistics Office of Vietnam) the Delta’s percentage of trained labor stood at just over half of the national average. In addition, the proportion of Delta residents with some sort of higher education stood at less than 1%, or in other words, just a fifth of the national average. With a workforce that is so poorly trained and educated, the Delta becomes an even less attractive region for investment, especially when compared to the populations near the Red River Delta (Hanoi and its environs) or Ho Chi Minh City.

What’s more, those Delta residents that have some technical training and/or higher education do not stay in the Delta for long. As the region’s economy falls farther behind the rest of Vietnam, more and more Delta residents are moving to urban centers to look for work. One of the main destinations for these people is Ho Chi Minh City, where over half of the city’s migrant workers come from the Mekong Delta. What trained labor the MKD might have ends up leaving the region for greener pastures, thus widening the gap between the Delta and places like Ho Chi Minh City.

Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam

Source: Dr. Ho Long Phi, processed from data of General Statistics Office of Vietnam

One reason that the MKD has such a low percentages of trained labor and educated inhabitants is that in the past there was no need for supplementary education of any form. In an environment where the annual rice yields are stable and prices are good enough, investing time and money for a new career is an unnecessary risk and one that Delta residents have not taken. Paddy rice cultivation requires little technical skill yet provides a modest, usually stable income. However, the income provided from rice is rarely enough to invest in the expansion of other industries and in the Delta’s case, the lack of infrastructure makes such an investment an even more expensive proposition.Unfortunately for the farmers of the Mekong Delta, rice cultivation is becoming a less and less stable enterprise. For one, the price of rice has dropped in the past decade. As more and more rice is produced worldwide, the seven tons of rice the Delta exports annually decreases in value and farmers lose out.

However, shifts in the world rice market are nothing compared to problems farmers face due to global warming. As detailed here, rising temperatures, sea level rise, an erratic precipitation and flood schedule and more frequent tropical storms all threaten to radically alter the Mekong Delta in the next century. The region already has enough impediments to development with its lack of infrastructure and trained labor; its environmental issues only add to the severity of the situation. The Delta, now more than ever, is in acute need of solutions. However, who’s coming up with these solutions, if there are any to begin with, is another question unto itself and one that needs to be answered before any future for the Mekong Delta can be imagined.

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Filed under Agriculture, Economic development, Environment and sustainability, Mekong River, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, Vietnam

A Flood of Challenges: Climate Change and the Mekong Delta

As loyal readers of ExSE have probably noticed by now, this site, at its core, is dedicated to Mekong River and the people who are connected to it. Thus it seems odd that so little attention has been given to the Mekong Delta on ExSE. As is the case with most international coverage of the Mekong, the upper and lower reaches of the river are largely ignored in favor of stories about hydropower projects and the livelihoods they will affect. However, the challenges that the Mekong Delta (MKD) is currently facing and will face in the future are also serious. These challenges are directly related to global warming and are shared with other deltas, though the unique geography and ecology of the Mekong makes the consequences of climate change here even graver. Continue reading


Filed under Agriculture, Environment and sustainability, Mekong River, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, Vietnam, water

Energy and Environmentalism on the Mekong: Time to Reach Across the Aisle

In recent years, two powerful narratives have emerged from mainland Southeast Asia. Generally speaking, discussions of the region focus around one of two topics: economic development and environmental degradation. For example, by typing “Mekong” into Google News the first page of results will show articles like this and this. As one can imagine, these two views of Southeast Asia are often in opposition and proponents of each rarely see eye to eye, sometimes going so far as to ignore the other side altogether. Recently, the battleground of these two narratives has been the construction sites of hydroelectric dams (both real and planned) that dot the Mekong River. Proponents of economic development see these dams as a necessary component to continued economic growth in the region. On the other hand, environmentalists point to the unknown ecological costs of the Mekong dams and argue that there are hidden costs to supposedly cheap hydropower. What is lost in the increasingly polarized game of right and wrong is a larger, more nuanced picture of the region and its needs. Some say that the Mekong needs dams while others argue that the region needs better protection measures for its natural resources. But what Southeast Asia really needs is for development fans and environmentalists to stop ignoring each other, and to restart the dialogue. Continue reading

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Filed under Economic development, Energy, Environment and sustainability, GMS, Mekong River, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, Uncategorized, water

Rubber and Sustainability in Southern Yunnan: A Tale of Two Villages

Will Feinberg compares Xishuangbanna’s rubber and sustainabilty in two of southern Yunnan’s ethnic villages. One monocrops while the other hedges.

Driving past new stores and half-built housing developments, you take a right into the forest. Keep going. The farther you drive, the worse the road gets until you burst through another patch of palms trees and cross a stream. Where are you? You’re in Mandian Village, just outside Jinghong, Yunnan and  right in the heart of Chinese rubber country.

Introduced to the area in the 1960s by the central government, rubber is big business in southern Yunnan. Large state plantations have steadily given way to private enterprises and the region has seen a proliferation of rubber planting in the past twenty years. Today in Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Region, which Jinghong is the seat of, rubber plantations already make up almost one fifth of all land.

While the environmental costs have been heavy, the rubber explosion has done wonders for Xishuangbanna’s economy. For rubber farmers in Mengla Country, for instance, the average household income is close to $30,000/year, comparable to places like Shanghai or Guangzhou. The economic benefits of rubber harvesting were quite clear to me while traveling through the region late last month. During the trip, I visited two villages that I had been to in 2011. In both cases, rubber has transformed the local economy, however one village was clearly better off than the other. Why?

The first village I visited was the aforementioned Mandian Village. Mandian is largely inhabited by people of the Dai ethnicity, with a 20-family group of Yi people living in an adjacent settlement. Mandian, like many other villages in the area, practices rubber cultivation and relies on rubber as its main source of income. According to villagers there, the Dai started harvesting rubber over a decade ago, while the Yi settlement began their rubber industry only within the last few years. For the village economy as a whole, rubber has had a positive influence. Per capita incomes have risen as well as household consumption and the money from rubber has allowed the town to build a new school.

However, as rubber is Mandian’s only cash crop, the village’s fortunes are now beholden to the world rubber market. Nothing illustrates this better than what happened to the village in 2012. Last year, the bottom fell out on the rubber market and the price of raw rubber dropped by half, going from 30 yuan per pound (1 US dollar is roughly equal to 6 Chinese yuan ) to 15 yuan per pound. Two villagers that I interviewed described the effects. One, a middle-aged Dai woman told of how most of the villagers who harvest rubber had to work overtime to scratch out living and the quality of life dropped for many families. Though because the Dai also plant rice, no one in the village went hungry. A young Yi woman that I spoke to also described how the economic hardships as a result of the rubber crash delayed the building of their house. The Yi, who were recently resettled as a result of the building of the Jinghong Dam, were forced to return to their old fields as a way of producing food during 2012 crash and without these fields, many villagers might have gone hungry. The fall of the rubber price in 2012 was not isolated just to Mandian village. The drop was felt in villages like Mandian all over southern Yunnan and in other rubber producing areas like Malaysia and Brazil. But there was at least one village that was comparatively isolated from the crash’s effects.

Nanpanzhong Village sits on the slope of a ridge just an hour’s drive from the Burmese border. A collection of some 120 families, Nanpanzhong is an Aini village. The Aini are a branch of the Hani/Akha minority, a nomadic, transboundary ethnicity that typically practice subsistence agriculture in the mountains of Southeast Asia. What makes the Aini of Nanpanzhong special, aside from their incredible hospitality, is their economy. Like the Dai and Yi of Mandian, the Aini also harvest rubber, but the role that rubber plays in the village’s economy is quite different. In an interview with the village mayor, I learned that money from rubber harvesting makes up only 30% of the town’s income. Instead, their primary source of income, by a long shot, is pigs. The town raises hundreds of short-eared swine which command quite a high price in China’s metropolises. According to the mayor, his pigs’ pork sells for 130 yuan/pound, many times higher than the price of normal pork. In fact, most of the village’s pork can only be found in places like Beijing, Chongqing and Shanghai; people in Jinghong can’t even afford it.

Pork sales now net the village almost sixty percent of its total income, but Nanpanzhong’s foray into the meat industry is a rather recent affair: villagers only began raising pigs in 2003. Its impact, however, has been astounding. According to the mayor, the average household income was hovering around 500 yuan per year at the turn of the millennium. Thirteen years later, that number as skyrocketed to almost 8,000 yuan and now, the mayor claims, Nanpanzhongcun is the envy of the surrounding valleys.

 When the rubber price plummeted last year, Nanpanzhong was largely unaffected. Of course, the mayor explains, villagers feel the effects when the rubber price fluctuates, but certainly less so than other places. The village is largely self-sustaining for food and the money earned from rubber, livestock and tea (which makes up a tenth of the village’s income) is used for electronics, vehicles and building materials. Both the mayor and villagers that I spoke with were convinced of the Nanpanzhong model’s superiority.

The evidence is hard to disagree with. Not considering the environmental concerns, of which there are many, rubber can be an unsustainable enterprise. Mandian, and hundreds of villages like it, have had a mixed experience with rubber. While it brought the village a new school and the villagers a higher standard of living, Mandian’s reliance on rubber and the fluctuations of the global market brought hardships to the village last year, forcing some villagers to leave in search of food. On the other hand is Nanpanzhong’s model. Rubber, while an important source of income for villagers, is part of a healthy balance. With families growing their own food and relying on two cash crops (rubber and tea) and livestock for their income, the villagers of Nanpanzhong are largely insulated from greater trends in the rubber market. The village’s exact model may not be able to be replicated in every village in Yunnan, but its general ideas can. Pairing rubber with a second cash crop and agricultural self-reliance are concepts that could give protection to villages like Mandian and offer a more economically sustainable path for thousands of people in the region.


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Filed under Economic development, Food, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, Yunnan Province

Book: The Great Game – The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia

Peter Hopkirk (Kodansha International, 1992)


In recent years, there’s been talk of a new Great Game being played out over the oil-rich steppes of Central Asia. Where the oil and natural gas from countries like Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will flow has been a matter of great debate between China and Russia as both try to spread and use their influence in these former Soviet Republics. This talk of a new Great Game piqued my interest not only in the current resource battles being waged, but more in the original Great Game – the century-long struggle between czarist Russia and Great Britain over Central Asian supremacy. To better familiarize myself with the subject, I read The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Middle East and Central Asia expert Peter Hopkirk.

The Great Game has many strengths, Hopkirk’s masterful writing being the highlight. All too often in histories, the author can get bogged down in minute details and the book, despite being well-researched, fails to interest the reader. This is hardly the case in The Great Game. In many places, the book reads like an adventure novel, keeping the reader fully engrossed in the story. Hopkirk’s writing makes the officers and officials on both sides of the struggle come alive not just as players of the Game, but as heroes that I found myself rooting for as they attempted to overcome natural and man-made challenges.

Much of Hopkirk’s great writing stems from his superb research. The author seamlessly incorporates dozens of primary sources, including the diaries and memoirs of many of the Great Game’s players. The reader is fortunate that Hopkirk has done his homework on the whole of the Game; the earliest years in the Karakoram are just as well-researched as the last stages of the struggle. The depth of knowledge that the author has on the subject is impressive and it shows in his writing. Combined with an almost literary style, The Great Game makes for an informative and enjoyable read.

That is not to say, however, that the book is without its faults. Most obvious is Hopkirk’s bias towards Great Britain in his depiction of the Game. Large swaths of the book are taken up by stories of British adventurers and officials that can often leave the reader wondering what the Russians were doing at the time. This is not to say that Russia is ignored in this history, far from it. However, accounts of British exploits are on the whole better researched and certainly more deep and colorful in their descriptions. This may not betray a bias in Hopkirk’s sentiments, but more a bias in the available documents. A quick glance at the bibliography shows a wealth of British sources compared to Russian ones. The gap is especially large when only looking at primary source material. That Hopkirk’s native language is English and that the book was written in 1990, at a time when Soviet archives might not have been accessible, makes the lack of Russian sources understandable, but no less regrettable.

Another area that sticks out to the reader is the very Eurocentricity of the account. While the Great Game was primarily a contest between Russia and Great Britain, with the Persians as nervous onlookers, the playing field was neither the British Isles nor the Russian steppe. Instead it was contested in the mountains of modern day Afghanistan and Pakistan and the deserts of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The author does a superb job of portraying the heroes of the Great Game and in this perhaps he is unparalleled. But this period of imperialism involved more than just a few dozen Russian and British officers. There were countless emirs, officials and citizens in places like Khiva, Bokhara, and Kabul that felt the effects of the Game’s twists and turns much more intensely than those in Moscow and London. Indeed, it can be argued that the Great Game more significantly changed the fates of the nations that were invaded by the imperial powers than those of British and Russia themselves. As an example, the kingdoms of Khiva, Bokhara, Kokhand and Tashkent were subsumed into the Russian Empire as a result of the Game and were not independent again until the collapse of the Soviet Union, emerging as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan

Because much of what Hopkirk presents to the reader about these territories are only gleaned from Russian and British sources, one is left guessing as to what, for example, the Khivans thought as the Russians finally broke down the walls to their supposedly impenetrable city. What did the citizens of Hunza, high in the mountains of modern-day northeast Pakistan, think as the British fought their way into their kingdom? How did Russia building a railroad across their newly won colonies in Central Asia affect the lives of the herders there? These are questions that are left unanswered. There is undoubtedly a lack of primary source material that could answer these questions, but there is also a lack of curiosity in their answers. Hopkirk’s account focuses only on the great empires and the men who created them through force of arms, not on those whose lands were taken in name of spreading Christianity, opening new markets for European traders and creating buffer states to protect existing colonies. These passive players of the Great Game far outnumber the colonial heroes, but their story is not told, and rarely considered. From this view, The Great Game follows a long tradition of histories that, despite their meticulous research, lack a truly full perspective. Colonialism and imperialism are brutal, often one-sided affairs, but that does not mean their histories have to be as well.

Despite these shortcomings of perspective, The Great Game remains a book that is necessary for anyone looking to understand this period in the history of imperialism. Peter Hopkirk’s narrative is as engrossing as it is informative and gives the reader insights into the motives and outcomes on both the Russian and British sides. Most importantly  by reading The Great Game, students of the past and and watchers of the present can better understand the ‘new Great Game,’ no matter which it is played.


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A Restart for the Myitsone Dam?

This September 30 will mark the two years anniversary of the suspension of the Myitsone Dam and once again, there is talk of resuming the project. In 2011, the controversial dam, built by state-owned China Power Investment (CPI) was shelved by Burmese President Thein Sein until 2015.  Since the project’s suspension there have been intermittent reports that construction will begin again, but despite much anticipation on the Chinese side, none of these rumors have led to any action on the project. However, reports in the last month hint at a greater possibility of resuming construction. Does Myitsone really have a future?

This latest round of discussion of Myitsone’s revival started last month with China’s Ambassador to Burma, Yang Houlan. In an interview with the Irrawaddy Magazine, published August 15, Ambassador Yang stated that the Chinese government supported a resumption of construction on the $3.6 billion project. However, while he made clear that the Chinese are for the completion of the dam, the Ambassador added that any action on the project would have to be approved by the Burmese. “China’s view is that we hope we can revive the project,” he said. “But of course, we respect the Myanmar government’s decision and we also respect the people’s views.”  The hydropower project, which is located in northeast Burma’s Kachin State, was suspended in 2011 after intense public disapproval of the project and nationwide protests. It is unknown whether or not further construction on the dam would lead to public outcry like that seen in 2010 and 2011.

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Filed under China, Myanmar/Burma, SLIDER, Sustainability and Resource Management, water

Earthquake hits Northwestern Yunnan: Update & Implications

In what is becoming a more and more frequent occurrence, an earthquake hit southwestern China’s Yunnan Province yesterday (Saturday, August 31). The earthquake, measured at a 5.9 on the Richter scale, struck near the town of Benzilan, located in Yunnan’s Deqin Tibetan Autonomous Region. Continue reading

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Myanmar-China Natural Gas Pipeline Complete, But Complications Remain

Last Monday, Chinese press outlets announced the long-awaited opening of the Myanmar-China Natural Gas Pipeline. The project, which has been in construction for almost four years, is part of a larger plan to import both natural gas and oil from the Bay of Bengal, through Myanmar and into China. The twin natural gas and oil pipelines are a project of great national importance as it is expected that the output from these pipelines will ease China’s growing energy needs. It is little wonder then that the opening of the natural gas pipeline was met with such fanfare.

On the day of its opening, July 29, the announcement was the top story on China Central Television’s evening news and stories ran in national and local newspapers celebrating the pipeline’s completion. The opening ceremony itself was supposedly an affair of great jubilation as well. Xinhua News reported, “”When torches flamed in the sky of Namkham Measuring Station of the Myanmar-China Gas Pipeline, a storm of applause and cheers broke out…”

Celebratory voices were not the only ones to be heard in the days surrounding the pipeline’s completion. This editorial in the English version of the People’s Daily argued that “Irresponsible remarks on the Myanmar-China oil and gas Pipeline should stop as the scientifically feasible project has benefited multiple parties.” According to the editorial, Western criticism of the pipeline stems from a “shady mentality”. These critics are “unwilling to see an intimate relationship between Myanmar and China” and are uncomfortable with the thought of China being energy secure. Continue reading

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