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Ancient Irrigation Management – “The Man Who Loved China”- Simon Winchester

October 30th, 2010 · No Comments · Bureaucracy, China, History, Policy

The Chinese had long ago realized that, so far as flooding was concerned, local interests had to be subordinated to a wider national need. Swollen rivers did their damage or brought their benefits to huge tracts of land and to large numbers of people who, if they were prudent, and whatever their local loyalties, ought to come together to bring each river under control. So the creation of what one might call a supra-local national water authority, and a large bureaucracy to populate it, became of great importance early on in China’s history. As it happened, the immense power that such a body eventually acquired in early China helped to strengthen the fledgling imperial system as a whole—and it quickly became evident that whoever controlled the empire’s rivers simultaneously wielded enormous power over the empire.

It’s endlessly fascinating how minor regional quirks can have such long term historical implications…


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