The only province in China that registered a fall in economic growth in the first half of this year was Shanxi, whose GDP fell by 4.4pc compared to last year.
The reason for the dip, when the government and the state banks were pumping stimulus cash into the system, is the "reform" of the coal-mining sector, which accounts for 70pc of Shanxi’s economy.
For the past five years, as the coal price has rocketed, Shanxi’s coal barons have grown famously rich. But at the same time, the mines became (even more) unsafe. In 2006 and 2007 there were hundreds of accidents and thousands of deaths.
That’s the reason the government has given in order to nationalise the entire province’s coal sector. They sent Wang Jun, the former head and party chief of the State Administration of Work Safety, to be governor of Shanxi.
The public has little sympathy for the coal barons, who flaunted their wealth in a particularly vulgar way. They are all likely to get compensation, although, as one lawyer said, they didn’t have "much wriggle room".
They were told to hand over the mines and leave or face their licenses being withdrawn. No court has accepted a suit in connection with coal mine reform since 2004.
Meanwhile, it is a bit rich for the government to suddenly start making a song-and-dance about the health and safety of migrant workers. Is the government willing to show how much it cares in other sectors? Workers in export-orientated factories could use a hand, and there are dangerous mines elsewhere, after all.
A much more likely reason for the sudden interest from Beijing in Shanxi’s coal sector is that nationalizing the coal mines allows Beijing to have a say in the price of coal on the international market. Prices are fixed in China, but as the international market price of coal has risen, more and more Shanxi barons sold their coal abroad.
That left the government concerned about a lack of supply, and about its ability to control the market abroad. Now that state-run firms are in charge, Beijing can decide where the coal will go. It’s the same strategy of control that Beijing is trying to impose in almost every raw material that China produces.