15 Pages

Introduction: China’s political economy and the coal industry

Coal and coal mining are central to the story of China’s economic development. From the Song dynasty (960-1279) China pioneered the use of coal to smelt iron and steel, albeit without fully overcoming the technological problems involved (Hartwell 1967; Wright 2007). During early modern industrialization, the industry again played a central role, as employer of industrial labour, as supplier of fuel to other industries and as a pawn in the struggle both between Chinese and foreign interests and between bureaucratic and private entrepreneurs (Wright 1984). After 1949, the industry became one of the pillars of the planned economy and it was crucial to the fuelling of China’s industrialization.