MA Degree Paper

The Construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China – A Psychoanlytic Perspective

Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, & University of East London, MA in Psychoanalytic Studies, 2004

This dissertation considers the protracted Three Gorges Dam (TGD) debate in the People’s Republic of China with the help of psychoanalytical concepts. In addition to exploring the history and immediate events that led to the final approval of the TGD project in 1992, it examines the manifest and latent reasons and phantasies for both the pro and contra factions in the discourse. The findings are as follows:

First, for nearly half a century, China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party implemented rigid, top-down policies that have split the nation. This was particularly the case during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Historically, political movements had left no room for Winnicottian Good-enoughness. Mass projection and hysteria were a norm during these times.

Secondly, Dam construction in China has traditionally been used as a political campaign, aimed at strengthening the CCP leadership while keeping “party enemies” at bay.

Thirdly, the TGD project was approved in the aftermath of the infamous June Fourth (1989) Oedipal conflict between the Party-state and the Chinese students. The Dam’s final approval was made a t a time when there was total distrust in the holding environment, which did not facilitate rational decision making processes.

Fourthly, the Damphiles envisage the multi-function dam to be near perfect and problem free – this phantasy is not reality grounded but, rather, an extension of their omnipotent and narcissistic self image.

Fifthly, the Damphobics fear that the TGD project and the subsequent destruction of the beautiful Three Gorges signifies the beginning of the end of their potential space, if not their autonomy and existence altogether.

Finally, it is the author’s view that the TGD can function as a Winnicottian Transitional object, thus providing the time and space for both protagonists to work though their phantasies in China’s period of rapid change.