TROPICAL GEOGRAPHY ›› 2017, Vol. 37 ›› Issue (2): 154-162.doi: 10.13284/j.cnki.rddl.002928

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Trans-boundary Water Governance under the Framework of “One Country, Two Systems”

Raymond Yu WANG   

  1. (Center for Chinese Public Administration Research,School of Government,Sun Yat-sen University,Guangzhou 510275,China)
  • Online:2017-03-05 Published:2017-03-05

Abstract: The framework of “one country, two systems” constitutes a unique context of trans-boundary water governance, which has supported the long-term prosperity of Hong Kong and Macau. In the meantime, some contentious issues in regard to the trans-boundary water supply also reflect divergent water governance strategies shaped by different social, historical and political conditions. This paper first reviews the history and current status of trans-boundary water supply for Hong Kong and Macau. It highlights the long-term bilateral collaborative relationships, the main responsibilities of water planning, water development, water conservation and regional coordination that have been carried by the Mainland. Followed by a summary of divergent local water governance arrangements and agenda between Hong Kong and Macau, the paper outlines four main types of contentions which are associated with the water security and water pricing nested in the Guangdong-Hong Kong trans-boundary water supply. Then, the paper demonstrates an alternative side of each contention by providing a more comprehensive explanation to the focal controversy. It is shown that these contentions are stemmed from misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the general public, media, NGOs even academics rather than of inter-governmental arrangements. In this sense, trans-boundary water governance under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework is more likely to facilitate cooperation at the river basin level than international river governance influenced by diplomatic relations, but is also more prone to create internal conflicts that cannot be solely addressed by administrative power. This phenomenon not only echoes with the recent research agenda of political geography that accentuates ‘borders are everywhere’, but also confirms the importance of “soft power” in geo-political relations. The paper argues that the key to the long-term success of trans-boundary water governance under the “one country, two systems” framework does not simply depend on how to set inter-governmental agenda or agreements–they have been effectively supported Hong Kong and Macau’s prosperity but failed to prevent the emergence of social contentions–rather, it lies in approaches that could overcome problems of collective insecurity, inaccurate information and inadequate communication. In other words, successful trans-boundary water governance is not about “water” per se, but is also closely associated with the promotion of transparency, participation and education within a rapid changing society. Therefore, more nuanced understanding of trans-boundary water governance requires a new perspective beyond the “territorial trap”, as well as in-depth research that integrates theories and methods from sociology, political science and public administration and that focus on social relations and social regularities at the local level.

Key words: hydro-politics, “one country, two systems”, border, critical geopolitics, Hong Kong