High-Efficiency Irrigation : Local Water Users’ Responses to the Modernization of Village Irrigation Technology and Government Control in China

Xu, Qinhong; Boelens, Rutgerd; Veldwisch, Gert Jan


In this paper, we investigate China’s vigorously promoted high-efficiency irrigation policies for farmland water conservation, deploying a governmentality framework. The paper explains how the modernist irrigation policies follow global discourses but seek to imbue these with new ambition and the meaning of ecological civilization. At the same time, the government aims to mold water users’ subjectivity in accordance with its development strategies. Following a local village case study, the paper further elucidates how, amidst the decline of commons’ local governance and water user responses, the state’s high-efficiency irrigation water governmentality project is adapted and negotiated. Local government bureaucracy actors and ordinary villagers challenge irrigation policies through local noncongruent institutions. Thereby, villagers’ pragmatic, non-aligned irrigation technologies and actions contradict state-assumed collective collaboration and government-aligned smooth operation.