Why Should Northern China Worry About Flooding?

China, Featured, Peter Zeihan

By Peter Zeihan

If you’re thinking, “There’s no way China’s situation could possibly get worse,” you may need to talk to mother nature about the rains and typhoons causing flooding in northern China.

To understand the problem, we need to rewind about 2500 years. The Chinese crop of choice was and still is rice (although corn and wheat would have been quite productive given the Yellow River’s sediment makeup and the region’s arid climate). To produce rice, you must precisely control when and how much water is introduced throughout the growth cycle.

They needed extensive government oversight and the physical infrastructure to control the flows of a river as big as the Yellow. This meant that the Chinese needed to develop a dike system. Fast forward to the present day, and you’ll see a system of massive and unfinished dikes throughout northern China.

This dike system prevents the silt and sediment from the Yellow River from spreading and dispersing naturally, which means it has had over two millennia to build up. As the Yellow River takes on water from the extensive rains and seasonal typhoons, these dikes are being pushed to their limits.

I’m not saying they will break this year, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. When that happens, you can expect catastrophic flooding that will destroy critical infrastructure and many people. But hey, that still doesn’t top the list of things China should be worrying about.

Peter Zeihan is a world expert in geopolitics: the study of how place impacts financial, economic, cultural, political and military developments. He presents customized executive briefings to a wide array of audiences which include, but are not limited to, financial professionals, Fortune 500 firms, energy investors, and a mix of industrial, power, agricultural and consulting associations and corporations. Mr. Zeihan has been featured in, and cited by, numerous newspapers and broadcasts including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, AP, Bloomberg, CNN, ABC, The New York Times, Fox News and MarketWatch.

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