Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UCLA Previously Published Works bannerUCLA

Global Capital, National Development and Transnational Environmental Activism: Conflict and the Three Gorges Dam


This article uses the controversy over China's Three Gorges Dam to examine the interaction between the Chinese state and transnational civil society that has unfolded in the global arena. It uses the human rights disputes and the emergent Chinese “hydropower discourse” to explore the global politics of the dam. The conflict flared up in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. The increasing interconnectedness of the world enabled the Three Gorges technocrats to solicit global capital for the project. Transnational activists, however, mobilised opposition to the dam through public opinion forums, including the Internet, and cross-border networking to seek to constrain the Chinese government's agenda. They also championed principles of environmental protection and human rights as a challenge to the investment policies of multinational corporations. But the Chinese developmentalists insisted on a particularist interpretation of people's rights. Furthermore, dam advocates turned the tables on the opponents by appropriating the environmental principle of sustainability and forming a new “hydropower discourse.” The struggle illuminates the complex interplay of socio-political forces embedded in the global-national-local nexus of exchange. The paper addresses the tension between developmentalism and environmentalism, particular interests and universal values, and national sovereignty and global activism.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View