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China’s Contained Resource Curse: How Minerals Shape State-Capital-Labor Relations, Jing Vivian Zhan

Reviewed by Sarah Eaton
 

Has China escaped the resource curse? While the effects of resource abundance on human development have been exhaustively studied in economics and political science, China has been largely absent from the debate. This is a curious omission since mainland China is relatively resource-rich, and particular regions are heavily beholden to extractive industries. As Jing Vivian Zhan points out in her excellent new book, China's Contained Resource Curse: How Minerals Shape State-Capital-Labour Relations, China appears at first glance to have escaped the resource curse because we find neither “large-scale violent conflicts” nor “pervasive decay of political institutions,” two primary ills of resource abundance (4).

In this innovative and rigorous study, Zhan takes a closer look at the issue. Focusing on China's resource rich regions—such as coal producers Shanxi and Inner Mongolia—Zhan studies how resource abundance plays out among three sets of interdependent actors: capital, labor, and the state. The findings are based on an exemplary use of mixed methods. There are rich qualitative insights sprinkled throughout the book, and a particular highlight is the 120 interviews Zhan conducted with a variety of state officials, business people, and local residents in five provinces. Hypotheses derived from Zhan's fieldw

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