Let’s start by looking at Hegang, a remote coal town near the Russian border. A few years back, this city made headlines as it underwent an unprecedented financial restructuring due to debt more than double its fiscal income. It was a pioneer of sorts, being the first city administration to take official emergency steps since the State Council set debt management rules in 2016. Hegang’s current struggles could be a harbinger for many other heavily indebted municipalities across China.
The restructuring has brought a clampdown on fiscal spending, impacting the lives of Hegang’s residents in a significant way. From delays in salaries to an increase in traffic fines, the city is struggling. The case of a middle-aged hospital worker is particularly telling. Her work contract was changed, reducing her benefits, and her wages have been delayed consistently since the previous year.
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