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China's Water Diplomacy: Xishuangbanna Case Study



Richard Grünwald, Caicai Geng, Wenling Wang


Politické vedy, Volume 26, Number 2/2023, pages 54-74


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GRÜNWALD, R. – GENG, C. - WANG, W. 2023. China's Water Diplomacy: Xishuangbanna Case Study. In Politické Vedy. Vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 54-74. ISSN 1335 – 2741. Available at:



Xishuangbanna presents one of eight China's Autonomous Prefectures in Yunnan Province and an important trans-Asian hub at the Myanmar-Laos borders. Apart from rich ethnic diversity and a well-preserved tropical ecosystem, it is also the only place from where China shares the actual hydrological water data with downstream countries on the Mekong River since November 2020. As a part of China’s water diplomacy, Xishuangbanna presents both a geostrategic instrument and a fountain of inspiration for non-traditional regional cooperation. In the presented study, we used the constructivist discourse analysis to re-interpret the “Lancang-Mekong Spirit”, a narrative emphasising the community of shared destiny, common interests and solidarity among Mekong countries. Data has been collected from the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and Conflict Database, which records over 3000 water-related events in the Mekong River Basin between 1990 to 2023. While emphasizing the historical, geographic and political proximity with other Mekong countries positively facilitate China’s foreign policy image in Southeast Asia, the success of the China’s water diplomacy may be limited without accountable inclusion of Yunnan Province specifics. The findings can be replicable in other case studies on China’s non-traditional foreign policy strategies.

Key words: Xishuangbanna, Lancang-Mekong Spirit, China Foreign Policy, Water Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Citizen Science

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