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China's social and national water governance


Water is the source of life and the source of the country. From the long-standing legend of Dayu on water control to the current flood and disaster relief, water control has always been with China. Based on the endogenous needs of water governance, the social water governance and national water governance activities formed not only shape China's social and national characteristics, but also shape China's unique social governance and national governance.

For China, which is based on agriculture, water conservancy is the lifeblood of agriculture. Under the influence of monsoon climate, uneven precipitation distribution has caused uneven seasonal and regional distribution of water resources in my country. It is the instability of water sources that urges people to develop methods of social control and water management, which leads to water governance. The process of water control is the process of making water subject to human will through artificial activities. According to the different subjects of water control, it can be divided into water control with society as the main body and water control with the state as the main body, namely social water control and national water control.

Endogenous social water governance shapes water governance society

Traditional China implements a household system with one household as the basic unit, and dispersion and isolation are its important characteristics. Although each household can complete a large number of production and living activities independently, it is difficult to realize the conversion of "water from lakes and ponds" to "water for irrigation". Villagers living in the same water space need to use a certain method to carry out joint activities with others in order to obtain living conditions beyond their individual ability and scope. From small water diversion and water passing between rice fields, to large ditches, ponds and weirs, and dam protection, special personnel or organizations are required to coordinate. As a result, not only the pond committee and weir committee centered on ponds and weirs, the dam committee and embankment committee centered on dams and embankments, and the water conservancy committee and river committee centered on springs and rivers were formed. And other autonomous organizations, and there are endogenous people in charge of water control such as dike lengths, dam lengths, weir lengths, pond lengths, polder lengths, river lengths, and embankment heads, as well as water watchers, water managers, water dischargers, and dyke watchers. , Shouyan people and other professional water watchers. The water control cooperation of various types of water conservancy communities is no longer an individual behavior of a single family, but a social behavior.

This kind of social water control activities is an organized activity involving multiple parties. In order to maintain the effective and continuous operation of the water conservancy community, through the joint consultation of the parties involved in the water control, the formation of "water without water", "fertilizer but not water", "water shortage and water", "ditch replacement", "land soil exchange" and other water Rules, such as "far and then near", "high and then low" and other water division habits, as well as "near field water conservancy, profitable canal repair", "work three soil seven", "two notes a day" and other methods of labor and supervision. However, the community formed by water control is a secondary community, which has weaker cohesion and centripetal force than the primary community, and is prone to conflicts under extreme water conservancy conditions. Conflicts caused by water scramble for water account for a large proportion of rural conflicts. After a conflict occurs, the two parties can either negotiate face-to-face to resolve it, or invite a credible local gentry to make peace. If individual parties are unwilling to abide by the rules of "co-construction and sharing" water control activities, they will face collective punishment from the water conservancy community. The commonly recognized water control rules are regarded as customary laws, and the water conservancy community has therefore become an autonomous body with common rules and order of activities.

From the perspective of the "Hu Huanyong Line", in humid and semi-humid areas with less than 40% of China's land area, more than 90% of China's population is bred. In humid and sub-humid regions, water control is one of the most important matters in farmers’ daily lives. Highly autonomous water governance communities and their voluntary joint water governance social activities have jointly shaped the characteristics of China's agricultural society, that is, the "water governance society". It can be said that a water governance society is not only an important condition for the continuation of a small peasant society, but also the social foundation of state governance. In traditional countries, the imperial power does not fall into the county, and the establishment of political institutions ends at the county. Small-scale water control activities in rural areas mainly rely on the power of farmers themselves. It is in this kind of social water control activities that not only cultivate the resilience of Chinese farmers for self-reliance and hard work, but also support the continuation of a large-scale civilization.

Endogenous state water governance shapes water governance countries

In traditional China, even though social water governance can achieve voluntary alliances in various types of water governance communities, large-scale conflicts within and among water conservancy communities cannot be coordinated by social autonomy and can only rely on official public authority. . At the same time, limited by transaction costs, management technology, and project scale, the scale of social water control is limited to a small range. For larger scale or larger projects, water control can only be completed by the state. Therefore, endogenous national water governance not only determines the survival of China's state, but also shapes the country's characteristics.

The governance of rivers, lakes and weirs formed by water control is a rich multi-level water control system. The salient feature of this system is that the part is bigger than the household, and the whole is bigger than the part. Specifically, in social water governance, the interests of water governance communities are higher than individual households; in national water governance, the necessity and urgency of large rivers are higher than that of Xiaotang and Xiaoyan. As Fairbank has seen in traditional China, "To effectively carry out irrigation and flood control, a central agency must control it." This kind of water governance system is difficult to adopt a federal system. Because the member units in the federal state existed earlier than the federal state, and have completely independent sovereignty. They only transfer part of their power to the federal government after joining the federation, but retain some of the power to manage internal affairs. When there are similar cross-administrative Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal excavations and basin-based governance of the Yellow River, a coalition state with a single federal member as the main body often has local interests higher than the overall interests, and it is difficult to achieve overall national governance. Therefore, for China with a vast territory, the unitary state structure is closely related to the unity of the water governance system.

Under the unitary system, national sovereignty precedes local administrative divisions. Local administrative divisions are the result of the country's division of regions according to certain principles according to the needs of governance. In order to fulfill the national water control function, China has set up a division in charge of water and soil engineering since the Western Zhou Dynasty; since the Qin and Han dynasties, not only has the central government established a water administration agency, but also established separate agencies and officials from the central government to take charge of the construction of water conservancy projects. A special river management agency was also created. In this regard, German sociologist Max Weber pointed out incisively, "Reviewing Chinese history, it is not difficult to find that the necessity of water control is the key to the establishment of the central government and its hereditary bureaucracy." It is precisely based on such a mature bureaucratic system that China can exert the "centralized" ability of the country's water governance. In traditional China, the completion of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, Dujiangyan, Zhengguoqu, etc. are all manifestations of the national centralized water control. National water governance not only constructs scattered administrative regions into a unified administrative community, but also constructs an economic, social, and cultural community to further strengthen national unity and centralization.

It can be said that China was born because of water and was formed by water control. The ancient motto that water control is to govern the country clearly shows that we have discovered the social and national nature of China from the historical perspective of water control.

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