Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Xie Chaoping's "The Great Relocation"

I have a two-parter up at Asia Times drawing on a book by Chinese investigative journalist Xie Chaoping entitled The Great Relocation

If you follow China news closely, you may have heard of Xie.  He was detained for about four weeks in August-September by a local government that was offended by his book.

Since the Internet is a wonderful place with a powerful disregard for copyright, Xie's book (in Chinese) is readily available on-line.  Xie had to fight well-funded and determined efforts to spike the book and it seems that he left an electronic copy floating around in case his opponents were successful in silencing him.

Some versions are truncated, usually omitting a detailed report on the extra-legal detention of the main local whistleblower in the case--and his escape from his knuckleheaded bureau of public security captors.

The Great Relocation covers the plight of hundreds of thousands of peasants who were moved out of some of Shaanxi's most fertile land in the 1950s to make way for the reservoir of the San Men Xia Dam.

When one reads the account of their fifty year struggle to recover their homeland, their prosperity, and their dignity, every metaphor for the insulted and injured comes to mind:  medieval Crusaders, the anti-government outlaws of On the Water Margin, slaves, Zionists, Roma, Palestinians...

More than just a fine piece of investigatory journalism, The Great Relocation is the Moby Dick of botched dam stories, covering history, technology, politics, criminology, the corruption of power, the nitty-gritty of graft, personal testimony, obsession, and the role of the media in exposing and following the story.

My two-parter provides an overview of the many issues that Xie examines, here and here.


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