From frontline to bridge: The politics of water infrastructure in Kinmen

Authors: Mei-huan Chen*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Natural Resources
Keywords: Kinmen, water, infrastructure, geopolitics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 30
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Located only 10km from China, Taiwan’s offshore island Kinmen (also known as Quemoy) used to be a battlefront during the Chinese Civil War and prevented the People's Liberation Army of China from taking over Taiwan. At that time, the Kinmen island was highly militarized, and its infrastructure was planned under a development framework that served for military purposes and demonstrated the modernization progress of the ‘free world’ as opposed to the ‘communist world’ under the Cold War structure. After 2001, when trade, postal, and transport restrictions between Kinmen and China were lifted, the island has been transformed from a frontline to a bridge of cross-strait exchanges, which is again manifested through infrastructure. In 2018, Kinmen began to receive freshwater from China’s Fujian province through a submarine pipeline, resulting in the island’s resource dependency on China. While this infrastructure project is considered to serve a geopolitical purpose, it also stems from the island’s physical conditions such as insufficient precipitation, salinization, and lack of proper water storage and sewage infrastructure, which indicates that geopolitics may be disrupted or enhanced by the island materialities. In this paper, I examine how the Cold War and the current cross-strait geopolitics are embedded in Kinmen’s infrastructure, as well as the ways in which materialities affect such geopolitical processes.

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