Recently the China Daily online news posted this article entitled “Anhui to relocate 390,000 residents for river control.” The Chinese authorities are planning this relocation to keep the residents out of harms way from the flooding of the Huai River (Huai He).
China has invested billions of yuan into controlling flooding and harnessing hydropower. It has also invested billions into the (mostly forced) relocation of millions of its own citizens. According to Wikipedia, China relocated 1.24 million people to make way for the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. The number of people being relocated in Anhui province is less than 1/3 of the relocation required for the Three Gorges project, but still, 1/3! By any measure, 390,000 people is an enormous number. Whats more, it requires rebuilding the infrastructure somewhere else! For example, this relocation effort would be like moving all of the people in the city of Minneapolis, MN to a new city… and building a whole new Minneapolis (see Google Earth version of Minneapolis skyline below).
What I find interesting about this is that currently the Chinese government has both the financial resources, material, and political clout to actually pull this off. There will inevitably be disagreement and protests, but I have very little doubt that this relocation will happen. The question is, what happens when/if the Chinese people acquire greater rights, specifically personal freedoms and the right to disagree with the government? Will the speed with which decisions such as these are acted upon decrease? Does the fact that China has centralized governance mean that it is better at the execution of long-term strategic infrastructure planning?
Whatever your feelings are toward Communist rule in China, the ability of the government to move quickly on very large scale projects such as this allows it an agility in policy that representative democracies rarely seem to have.