The Associated Press- JUNDESHAN, China (AP) — Hanging from a highway overpass two hours’ drive from the Siberian border, a local government banner reads like a last-gasp exhortation to this exhausted coal community: “Improve our structure, change our methods, transform our city.”
This area has transformed in dire ways as China has retreated from coal and heavy industry. Li Jiuxian, who hasn’t been paid for half a year, sees only mounting debts and anger.
“I don’t even have anywhere left to borrow money from,” said the 51-year-old miner as he stepped outside a squalid mahjong parlor reeking of smoke and drink where miners while away days without work or pay. “There isn’t going to be change.”
Frustration among miners like Li over unpaid wages has swelled to the brink of unrest in Heilongjiang province in China’s far northeast, also known as Manchuria. It spilled over most recently a week ago when thousands of miners protested in the town of Shuangyashan, a direct challenge to Beijing’s assertion that it is proceeding smoothly with a sweeping plan to cut capacity in industrial sectors and make the economy more efficient.
Chinese leaders promise the pain will be short-term as they retrain and re-employ the estimated 1.8 million workers who will be laid off from unprofitable government-owned coal and steel companies. Countless more will be axed by private firms. But villagers’ struggles and increasing incidents of labor unrest underscore the difficulty of China’s transformation.
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