By the time Nellu and I arrived on Chongqing, China for the start of our Yangtze River cruise to the Three Gorges Dam, we were utterly exhausted with blistered feet and battered spirits. We’d spent a week battling the crowds in Beijing, nearly missed our second overnight train and barely survived our third overnight train experience (more on that later).

We had gotten to see some pretty amazing sights like the Terracotta Warriors outside of X’ian but we were in need of a solid break.

Terracotta Soldiers Photo by Nellu

So sitting on a boat for three days with plenty of time for siestas, a few shore excursions to make us feel mildly productive, and plenty of food was A-ok with us. And besides being on the water (which I love) we’d be traveling to the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam.

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The Three Gorges Dam is certainly…intriguing. One could call it a symbol of defiant Chinese might. The concept behind the dam has been in the making for a good portion of the twentieth century but the body of the dam wasn’t completed until 2006. It’s sheer scope and its potential environmental and social impact has been the subject of much controversy. Some even suggest that the filling of the basin behind the dam, a move which required more than 1.3 million residents to relocate, could contribute to earthquakes. The official bill of the project stands at $28 billion with 45% of that cost going to resident relocation.

The city of Wushan moved higher up on the slope so the Yangtze River basin could be flooded.

Earlier this year,  China State Council admitted there are issues with the dam (quote taken from the New York Times), “Although the Three Gorges project provides huge comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection and geological disaster prevention.”

Our cruise down the Yangtze also gave us the chance to experience China’s massive infrastructure growth first hand. Beyond the banks of the river, entire cities like Chongqing and Wuhan seemed to be under construction. Chongqing even had posters promoting a “Safe Chongqing” picturing happy looking families in front of beautiful looking high rises and peaceful looking parks. But there were so many high rises going up that it made you wonder if anyone would actually live there.

The New York Times ran an article a few weeks back which provided some more insight to our observations: “China Faces Obstacles in Bid to Rebalance Its Economy.”

Perhaps if we combine the U.S. economic model, so dependent on consumerism, with the infrastructure drive of the Chinese, we may have the perfect economy.

~ Molly

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