The Three Gorges Dam

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A Complete Guide

The Three Gorges Dam

By : Karim K. & Davit Marutyan

The First Steps

The idea for the Three Gorges dam was originally suggested by a man called Sun Yat-Sen in his book “The International Development of China” in 1919. In it he wrote that a dam that could manage to produce 30 million horsepower (22,371 V) worth of electricity was conceivable downstream the Three Gorges Mountains. The River on which it would be built was the Yangtze River is the third largest river in the world at 3,837 Miles long, behind the Nile and Amazon Rivers.

In 1932 the nationalist government led by Chiang Kai-Shek began the first round of work on the Three Gorges Dam. In 1939, the Japanese forces took control over Yichang and occupied. With the fear of the Japanese advance a designed entitled the “Otani Plan” was completed.

Sun Yat-Sen

The dam’s construction was stalled until 1944 when the chief designer of the United States Bureau of Reclamation John L. Savage scouted the area and devised a scheme for what they called the “Yangtze River Project”. As a result 54 Chinese engineers went to the United States for training in 1944.

A lot of economic, survey and environmental study was taken out in the following years concerning the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. In 1947 however at the height of the Chinese Civil War work was once again abandoned at the site.

Sun Yat-Sen’s Book

A painted depiction of the Chinese Civil War
John L. Savage of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

The Communist Victory

In 1949 the Communist Party of
China (CPC) led by Mao Zedong
won the Chinese Civil War against
the Kuomintang
Emblem of the (CPC)
Mao Zedong
(Chinese Nationalist Party).

Mao supported the project of the Three Gorges Dam but preferred beginning with the Gezhouba Dam project first. Mao’s introduction of China’s “Great Leap Forward”, and the Cultural Revolution greatly hampered the progress of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam once again.

The Great Leap Forward

The Great Leap Forward was a major program undertaken by the People’s Republic of China between 1958 and 1961which consisted of both economic and social campaigns.

The plan had many objectives. To begin with, it plotted to use China’s enormous population to move from an agricultural economy to a modern Communist civilization through the collectivization of the farming industry and a hasty process of industrialization. The campaign was based on a hypothesis known as the Theory of the Productive Forces. Reforms included the mandatory process of collectivization (farming being taken out as a joint venture by the people) and the banning of private farming. This policy was enforced on the rural people through social pressure.

Propaganda Posters that were popularly displayed all over China during the “Great Leap Forward” Era. They display a picture of Success and progress contrary to the true results (1958-1961).

Mao was informed beforehand of the ominous possibility of a disaster due to grain shortages but instead sped up the campaign. This would prove to be a great disaster and lead to the Great Chinese Famine, eventually more than 15 million and possibly 26 million people would die of starvation between 1959 and 1961. The “Great Leap Forward” was officially abandoned in late 1961.

The Cultural Revolution

The Cultural Revolution was Mao
Zedong’s attempt to regain prominence
after his marginalization in early 1962,
due to the failure of the “Great Leap Forward”.
The Revolution was a socio-political
movement which took place between
1966 and 1976. The goal of the
movement was to impose socialism in
China through the removal of capitalist,
traditional and cultural elements of Chinese
society and the impose Maoism within the
Propaganda Poster for the Cultural Revolution
Communist Party of China.

Mao suspected that burgeois elements were infiltrating...
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