China and the Emergence of a Global Small Hydropower Network, ca 1980s

Date and Time

August 4, 2023

3:00 pm to 4:30 pm


Online via Zoom and CPR Conference Room

Arunabh Ghosh

Associate Professor, History Department, Harvard University

CPR-CWC Dialogue Forum in collaboration with ICID presents a talk on:

China and the Emergence of a Global Small Hydropower Network, ca 1980s

Speaker: Arunabh Ghosh, Associate Professor, History Department, Harvard University

Friday, 4 August 2023, 3:00 to 4:30 PM IST at the CPR office conference room (Dharma Marg, New Delhi) and online via Zoom.

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About the talk:

This talk explores China’s role in emerging global small hydropower networks of the late 1970s and 1980s. Starting early in the decade, Chinese small hydropower expertise and technology traveled across the Global South and even made its way to the United States. China also came to play an increasingly central role in a host of ambitious international small hydropower conferences — in places like Kathmandu, Nairobi, and Hangzhou.

In this talk, he traces and contextualizes this story, unpacking how Chinese expertise was exported abroad and how it came to serve as a benchmark for global small hydropower projects. Such a story has implications for understanding global histories of development, energy, and the environment and China’s place in those histories.

In particular, the story here provides a longer durée perspective on China’s current status as a global leader in two related areas. Firstly, it helps qualify and revise perceptions of China’s place as leader in large dam technology, pointing to an earlier investment in small hydropower, which achieved far-reaching global influence by the 1980s. Secondly, the growing spread through the 1980s of China’s small hydropower expertise globally anticipates in some ways a defining feature of China’s global engagement today: infrastructure consulting and construction.

About the Speaker:

Arunabh Ghosh (BA Haverford, PhD Columbia) is an associate professor in the History Department at Harvard University. A historian of modern China, his interests include social and economic history, history of science and statecraft, environmental history, and transnational history. Ghosh is the author of Making it Count: Statistics and Statecraft in the Early People’s Republic of China (Princeton, 2020). He is now working on a history of small hydropower in the PRC. Other ongoing projects include writing histories of China-India scientific networks and a collaborative archival project on China-related materials within the Nehru Papers.

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