River-Sand Mining: An Ethnography of Resource Conflict in China


This book explores the overexploitation of river-sand and its impact on Zhuang communities in China. A topical phenomenon, the book engages with the concept of authoritarian environmental management through a detailed analysis of state laws and policies on river-sand mining. Additional rich ethnographic material shows that riverfront Zhuang villagers and their indigenous ecological knowledge cannot compete with government policy, economic forces, and development trends in gaining control over river sand governance. This book provides appealing case studies in the interdisciplinary field of political ecology. As an example of "anthropology of home", it is of specific methodological interest.

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Qian Zhu, Ph.D. (1984), is a postdoctoral research fellow in the School of Sociology and Anthropology of Sun Yat-sen University. She has published several articles in Journal of Chinese Overseas, Ecological Economic Review, and Soil & Social Sciences in Guangdong.


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Notes on the Text

 1.1 A Brief History of River-Sand Mining: A National Perspective

 1.2 The Current Demand for River Sand in China

 1.3 The Political Ecology of River-Sand Mining

 1.4 The Concept of Indigeneity in China

 1.5 The Zhuang and Their Indigenous Ecological Knowledge

 1.6 The Objective, Research Questions, and Structure of the Book

2The Research Setting and Conducting Research “at Home”
 2.1 The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region: Human–Environment Relations in Historical Perspective

 2.2 Qinzhou City, Zhuang Towns, the River, and the Villages
 2.2.1 Huangwutun Town

 2.2.2 Xintang Town

 2.2.3 Six Villages along the Maoling River Mei Village: An Example of Agricultural Crisis and Its Impact on Outmigration Migrant Workers Who Settle in Urban Areas

 2.3 Starting Research in Mei Village: Topic Determination during Fieldwork

 2.4 Methods
 2.4.1 Choosing the Key Informants

 2.5 Multiple Positions: Conducting Research “at Home” and Beyond

3The Commodity Chain of River Sand and the Ecological Consequences of River-Sand Mining
 3.1 The Commodification of River Sand
 3.1.1 The Increase in River Sand Prices and the Use of New Technology

 3.2 The Sand Rush along the Maoling River
 3.2.1 Illegal Sand Miners on the Upper Reaches of the Maoling River

 3.2.2 Illegal Sand Miners on the Lower Maoling River Case Study 1: The Family-Owned Sand Company Case Study 2: Changing Status from Worker to Owner

 3.2.3 The Outsiders and the Insiders: The Boom in Illegal Sand Mining Case Study of a Female Miner: No Worry about the Customers Case Study of a Local Miner Restarting His Business: Performing a Rite before Mining

 3.3 The Role of Sand Wholesalers and the Sand Market in the Commodity Chain
 3.3.1 A Sand Wholesaler in Qinzhou City

 3.3.2 The Sand Market in Nanning City

 3.3.3 Truck and Ship Owners

 3.4 The Ecological Consequences of Sand Commodification
 3.4.1 Loss of Fish Species

 3.4.2 Water Pollution

 3.4.3 Destruction of Riverbanks and Adjacent Farmlands

 3.4.4 Loss of Life

 3.4.5 Damage to Infrastructure: Roads and Bridges

 3.5 Conclusion

4Government Policies and the Commodification of River Sand
 4.1 Project-based Development and Its Role in the Marketization of Sand

 4.2 Urbanization in Formerly Rural Areas
 4.2.1 The Incorporation of Rural Areas into Large Cities

 4.2.2 Rapidly Expanding Towns

 4.2.3 Rebuilding the Administrative Committee’s Offices

 4.2.4 Private House Construction in Rural Areas

 4.3 Infrastructural Projects in Rural Areas
 4.3.1 Water Conservation

 4.3.2 Two Case Studies of the “One Project, One Discussion System” Case Study 1: A 390-meter Cement Road Project in Mei Village in 2012 Case Study 2: A 220-meter Cement Road Project in Mei Village in 2015

 4.4 The Counterproductive Aspects of the Project System in Villages

 4.5 Conclusion

5State Ownership and the Governmental Management of River Sand
 5.1 Laws Governing River-Sand Mining and the State Ownership of River Sand

 5.2 Horizontal Politics in the Governance of River-Sand Mining

 5.3 Vertical Politics in the Governance of River-Sand Mining

 5.4 Sand-Management Policies at the Provincial Level: Power Decentralization and Autonomy

 5.5 River-Sand Auctions at the Prefectural Level: Sand-Mining Licensing in Practice
 5.5.1 The Deceptive Success of Auctions of Sand-Mining Licenses

 5.5.2 The Effects of Corruption and Mismanagement on the Sand-Mining License System

 5.6 The (Non-)Governance of River Sand at the Township Level: A Lack of Authority

 5.7 Discussion and Conclusion

6Zhuang Villages’ Perspectives on Property Rights “This is Our Sand”
 6.1 The Emergence of Sand “Thieves” and Ownership Problems

 6.2 The “Blame Game” and the Complexity of Rights on the Commons

 6.3 Selling Sand on the Instructions of Government Officials

 6.4 Selling Sand to Defend a Village’s Right to Common Resources

 6.5 An Illegal Sand Agreement and Its Implications

 6.6 Discussion and Conclusion

7The Sociocultural Consequences of Illegal Sand Mining and Local Resistance
 7.1 Consequences for Agricultural Livelihoods

 7.2 Social Conflicts and Local Resistance against Sand Mining
 7.2.1 Resistance through Throwing Stones

 7.2.2 Resistance through Appealing to Formal Government Channels

 7.2.3 Resistance through Petitioning

 7.2.4 Resistance through Social Media

 7.3 Sand Exploitation and Its Impact on Indigenous Belief Systems
 7.3.1 Case One: The Supernatural Punishment of Violators

 7.3.2 Case Two: The Infestation of Gods’ Trees by Insects

 7.3.3 Case Three: The Death of Some Elders

 7.4 Discussion and Conclusion




The primary readership is anthropology and sinology and environmental humanities students, researchers in the same fields of study, Chinese policymakers and government officials, and international organizations in the field of natural resource management.
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