The New Great Walls


Published in November 2012 by International Rivers

Second edition

About International Rivers

International Rivers protects rivers and defends the rights of communities that depend on them. With offices in four continents, International Rivers works to stop destructive dams, improve decision-making processes in the water and energy sectors, and promote water and energy solutions for a just and sustainable world.

International Rivers' China Program works with its partners to communicate the experiences of the international movement for "people, water, and life" to new dam financiers and builders in China. In addition, International Rivers' China Program provides information about China's role in global dam building and supports groups in countries affected by Chinese dams.


This revised guide was made possible by the generous support of the Blue Moon Fund and the MacArthur Foundation.

Publication Information

Written and published by International Rivers

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Cover photo: Bakun Dam, Malaysia. In 2011, after five decades of delays, the Sarawak government began operating the 2,400 MW Bakun Dam, a project that Transparency International labeled a "monument to corruption." The project was developed by the Malaysian government and Chinese state-owned dam builder Sinohydro with support from the China Export Import Bank. At 205 meters high, the Bakun Dam is one of Asia's largest dams and has submerged 70,000 hectares of forests. Photo courtesy of Bruno Manser Fund.


"-the Chinese model for stimulating rapid economic development has much to teach Africa."

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal in the Financial Times, 23 January 2008.

"Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) is underwriting the destruction of our people. Their funding is a hideous gesture of the destruction Chinese funds can bring to Africa's poorest communities."

Ikal Angelei, Founder of the Friends of Lake Turkana, an NGO working with local people living around the lake, quoted in the South China Morning Post, 2 June 2011.

"When cooperating with relevant countries on water conservancy and hydropower projects at their request, paying high attention to local residents' welfare as well as possible environmental impact, China adopts strict environmental protection standards and requires that the Chinese enterprises abide by local laws and regulations-China will strengthen cooperation and exchanges with relevant countries in the field of environmental protection and play a positive role in facilitating sustainable development of local economy and society."

China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's response to a foreign journalist's question that Chinese dam builders face opposition overseas due to lack of information transparency and indifference to local residents' desire of environmental protection, 21 April 2011.

"We [Chinese overseas dam-building industry] should first take the initiative to change ourselves, and cut our feet to fit the shoe to connect to the existing international rules, fully integrate into the international environment-"

Fan Jixiang, Chairman of China Power Construction Group in a speech to Chinese state-owned enterprises going out published on Sinohydro's website, 26 April 2012.

"[Chinese enterprises should] openly and honestly conduct an exchange and even debate with international dissenting organizations."

Sinohydro's Chief Executive Officer, Fan Jixiang writing in Public Diplomacy Quarterly, 22 April 2010.

"The Chinese model is a fascinating and new model in terms of how aid is flowing into Africa and how infrastructure investment is being conducted and supported. So China is in a sense posing a challenge and making us think about aid architecture, this kind of governance-neutral approach to aid engagement and investment in Africa."

Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice President, African Development Bank, quoted in The Standard, 29 November 2010.

"China is no enemy, but inflating the challenge from China could be just as dangerous as underestimating it."

Steven Mufson and John Pomfret, former Post Beijing bureau chiefs, writing in The Washington Post, 28 February 2010.

NAM OU, LAOS Sinohydro is developing seven dams along the Nam Ou, the largest tributary of the Mekong River. The project would impact thousands of people and inundate part of a National Biodiversity Conservation Area. The total value of the project is US$2 billion and is being financed by loans from China Development Bank.