Water Politics and Regional Stability

CAG is currently undertaking two research projects in this area, led by Dr Selina Ho.

River Politics: China’s Transboundary Rivers

Transboundary Rivers have become increasingly salient in affecting relations between and among riparian states. It is a non-traditional security issue which has significant impact on regional security and stability. This project compares China’s transboundary river policies towards Southeast, South, and Central Asia, and Russia. China is an upstream riparian and it utilises the portion of the international rivers that runs through its territory as it deems fit, with little discussion with downstream riparian countries. However, there are discernible differences in the way China approaches each of these river systems.

It is more cooperative and willing to consider joint development in some of these cases, such as the Ili and Irtysh Rivers with Kazakhstan, while it is less cooperative in other cases, such as the Brahmaputra which it shares with India and Bangladesh. What drives Chinese policies towards its international rivers? Why is it more cooperative in some cases but not others? What does this imply for regional stability? What is the likelihood of conflicts arising from water disputes?

Using realist and constructivist ideas, it can be explained that Chinese policies are determined by four main factors – power distribution, level of engagement, whether resource disputes are mixed with territorial disputes, and the role and interest of domestic actors. China uses a cost-benefit analytical framework to assess these four factors. The project is critical for theory development on China’s international behaviour.

Between the Ruler and the Ruled: The Puzzle of Public Goods Provision in China and India

This study compares China and India in the provision of public goods, focusing specifically on the urban water sector of both countries. The book asks why authoritarian China provides a higher level of public goods than democratic India. This contradicts the findings of many large-N studies which show that democracies are generally better than authoritarian regimes in delivering public goods. The book argues that it is not authoritarian or democratic systems per se that determine the level of public goods. Rather, the social contract between the government and the people explains the differing levels of public goods provision. The book develops a social contract typology to account for the institutions that governments build to maintain and enhance their legitimacy and credibility. The autonomy and capacity of these institutions in turn impact on the level of public goods provision. The book’s findings are based on case studies of the urban water sector in four cities, viz., Beijing, Shenzhen, Delhi, and Hyderabad.

Water Politics and Regional Stability Conference May 2015

Water Politics and Regional Stability Conference May 2015

Click here for Concept Note.

Principal Investigators

Dr. Selina Ho