The Perils of Private Enterprise: There Was Blood

A visitor to Jingbian county in northern Shaanxi province finds at its heart a thriving oil town in the grip of a state-owned company, Shaanxi Yanchang Petroleum. Yanchang’s building, 12 storeys high, towers over the low-slung town. The company is by far Jingbian’s largest employer and taxpayer. More than 3,000 of Yanchang’s yellow and red nodding donkeys dot the countryside, pumping 7m barrels of oil a year. This region in north-western China was known for impoverished peasants dwelling in caves hewn out of the deep, compacted soils of the Loess plateau. In a decade Jingbian has become a booming company town.

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