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“Learning it the Hard Way”: Social safeguards norms in Chinese-led dam projects in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia

Julian Kirchherr, Nathanial Matthews, Katrina J. Charles and Matthew J. Walton

Energy Policy, 2017, vol. 102, issue C, 529-539

Abstract: Chinese dam developers claim to construct at least every second dam worldwide. However, scholarly literature comprehensively investigating the social safeguard norms in these projects is rare. This paper analyses social safeguard norms in Chinese-led dam projects in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia, hotspots of Chinese-led dam construction. We find that social safeguard norms adopted have significantly changed in the past 15 years. While Chinese dam developers claimed to adopt standards of the host countries upon the launch of China's Going Out Policy in 2001, with occasional adoption of more demanding Chinese standards, they did not adopt international norms. In recent years, however, they increasingly take into account international norms. We argue that the root cause for this change is social mobilization, with the suspension of the Myitsone Dam in 2011 as a particular game changer. Enhanced social safeguard legislation in host countries and China, stricter rules of Chinese funders and cooperation of Chinese dam developers with international players have also facilitated this change.

Keywords: Myanmar; Laos; Cambodia; Chinese dam developers; Large dams; Social safeguards (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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