For centuries, the Yellow River symbolized the greatness and sorrows of China’s ancient civilization, as emperors equated controlling the river and taming its catastrophic floods with controlling China. Now, the river is a very different symbol — of the dire state of China’s limited resources at a time when the country’s soaring economic growth needs more of everything.
“The Yellow River flows through all these densely populated parts of northern China,” said Liu Shiyin, a scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. “Without water in northern China, people can’t survive. And the economic development that has been going on cannot continue.”
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