, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 1–6 | Cite as

Escaping the resource curse in China

  • Shixiong Cao
  • Shurong Li
  • Hua Ma
  • Yutong Sun


Many societies face an income gap between rich regions with access to advanced technology and regions that are rich in natural resources but poorer in technology. This “resource curse” can lead to a Kuznets trap, in which economic inequalities between the rich and the poor increase during the process of socioeconomic development. This can also lead to depletion of natural resources, environmental degradation, social instability, and declining socioeconomic development. These problems will jeopardize China’s achievements if the current path continues to be pursued without intervention by the government to solve the problems. To mitigate the socioeconomic development gap between western and eastern China, the government implemented its Western Development Program in 2000. However, recent data suggest that this program has instead worsened the resource curse. Because each region has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, China must escape the resource curse by accounting for this difference; in western China, this can be done by improving education, promoting high-tech industry, adjusting its economic strategy to balance regional development, and seeking more sustainable approaches to socioeconomic development.


Environmental degradation Kuznets trap Resource curse Regional gap Resource exploitation Unbalanced development strategy 



This work was supported by the Key Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZZD-EW-04-05). We thank Geoffrey Hart of Montréal, Canada, for his help in writing this paper, and Heran Zheng and Yafeng Wang, who supplied the Figures. We are also grateful for the comments and criticisms of an early version of this manuscript by our colleagues and by the journal’s editor and reviewers.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest. The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the government of China or of any other organization.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Urban and Environmental ScienceNorthwest UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Economics and ManagementBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of Public ManagementNorthwest UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.College of Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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