By Emma Graham-Harrison
YUMEN, China (Reuters) – Dying towns are rare in booming, but the expanses of rubble and abandoned homes that ring the once-wealthy oil centre of Yumen mark it out as one of them.
And though it is home to just a few thousand people, in a nation of over 1.3 billion,‘s stability obsessed bureaucrats are fretting about their fate.
They worry because Yumen’s poor, disgruntled inhabitants are the thin end of a wedge of discontent that could engulf hundreds of thousands of people within a decade unless the central government can tackle one of the more obscure but troubling legacies of past socialist policies.
The potential troublemakers live in dozens of “resource towns” scattered across China, which were built by Mao-era economic planners to exploit energy or mineral deposits regardless of how remote or inhospitable the location.
Now some seams of oil, coal and ores are starting to run out, pushing up unemployment and migration while leaving behind shells of towns that are impoverished tinderboxes of unrest.
Yumen is one of many resource towns that should probably never have existed, clinging to….