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Major Flooding in Northern China

reflective photo of brown leafed trees

If you believe that the situation for the Chinese economy, Chinese society and many other challenges in China this decade can’t get any more severe, you are mistaken.

It’s time to take talk to mother nature causing flooding in the northern China region.

But from August 1, 2023, China was inundated with heavy rain and flooding in northern and northeastern regions in recent weeks brought by storms from Typhoons Doksuri and Khanun.

The extreme weather may lead to severe pest infestations that target cotton, corn and soybean in some areas.

The Areas Affected by Flooding

The most affected areas are Beijing, and the surrounding province of Hebei was hardest hit.

In just four days, 331mm of rain fell on the capital, as much as it usually sees in six months.

The capital’s centre escaped the worst of the flooding. Still, suburbs and towns to its south and west suffered another 1.1 million people have been evacuated.

At least USD 2.2 billion is estimated to have been lost in property damages.

Major Flooding in Northern China
Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash

The Chinese Yellow River

The Yellow River formed between 56 million and 34 million years ago during the Eocene epoch, while the familiar shape appeared around 7 thousand years ago.

The river has long been critical to the development of northern China and is regarded by scholars as one cradle of civilisation.

And is one of the many reasons why China is Chinese, and other Chinese ethnic groups eventually came to dominate and control what people in the modern world regard China through conquest, cultural assimilation and the displacement of the old ethnic group.

The process happened around 4000 BC, and a similar process has happened recently in human history with Columbus discovering America in 1492 AD, which saw the conquest and destruction of the Native American culture, language and ways of life in North and South America.

The North Americans were hit particularly severely with European germs killing 95% of the Native American population.

Still, East Asia and Oceania theorised that Polynesians, in terms of ethnic makeup, would have initially dominated what is regarded as southern China.

The Chinese have a common ancestor with Polynesians, which is why people of southern China, the Philippines and Vietnam have a slightly darker skin tone and are smaller than northern Chinese, who are also bigger and whiter than their southern counterparts.

The Chinese from the Yellow River made it possible for Northern China to conquer and incorporate other regions that now make up the civilisation that we call China.

This shows the geopolitical significance of the Chinese Yellow River and how the northern Chinese created what it means to be Chinese.

The process did not happen anywhere else on the planet.

It did not occur in Europe at most the old Roman Empire (31 BC to 476 AD) controlled half of Europe, and due to geographical limitations around the globe, including contemporary India, no other nation and people apart from the northern Chinese have had such an impact.

China’s political, geographical and cultural impact on the Far East is distinctively influenced by Chinese civilisation and culture.

If you want to learn more about this topic, I strongly recommend the book Guns, Steel and Germs by Jared Diamond.

Major Flooding in Northern China
Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash

Chinese Flooding and History

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 today, and you’ll see a massive and unfinished dikes system 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.

In Northern China, most rivers flow across the plain on elevated beds above the surrounding areas.

Throughout history, widespread flooding was common on the plain every two years out of three. After 1949, however, large-scale flood control and irrigation projects were built.

The most recent bad flooding in Northern Chin was in 1887 Yellow River flood in Qing China began in September 1887 and killed at least 930,000 people.

It was the single deadliest flood in China, making it one of the most significant disasters in China by death toll.

Flooding in Northern China is still not at the top of the list of things China should worry about.

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