The New Economy
China’s Rust Belt Up In Arms

Thousands of coal miners have taken to the streets in a Chinese northeastern rust belt mining town to protest falling wages and layoffs. Reuters:

The protesters are employees at Shuangyashan Mine, owned by Longmay Group. They held up banners saying: “We want to live, we want to eat,” according to photographs posted on social media.

As China’s economy slows, the government is trying to slash overcapacity in labor-intensive industries like coal and steel but this has prompted fears the country might face its fiercest unemployment pressures since the late 1990s.

The workers claim they are owed unpaid wages and some are angry that their pay has been cut to 800 yuan ($123.19) a month, from 1000 yuan, according to local media reports.

The unrest offers a window into the challenges facing President Xi Jinping. We have noted time and again how the real source of China’s decreases in carbon emissions is tied to both a concerted shift towards a more service-oriented economy, as well as a slower rate of growth that such a shift entails. Here we see on a micro scale the kinds of dislocations that this strategy entails.  And with China reportedly expecting up to 6 million job cuts in the next few years, these protests could be a small sign of much bigger things to come.

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