West China’s White Jade Rush

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People like to draw comparisons between the extremes and absurdities of the Chinese economy today and what the U.S. and Europe went through more than a century ago. It’s never an exact fit, but sometimes the comparison makes for an interesting point, like to give context to the development of intellectual property protection.

So it’s hard not to sense some sort of Wild West parallel between the white jade rush that’s raging in Xinjiang province and North American gold rushes of the 1800s. According to a story on China Central Television that Reuters reports on here, up to 100,000 prospectors and thousands of pieces of heavy equipment have descended on the Yurungkax River. Now officials concerned about protecting the river are trying to fine illegal diggers.

The Gold Rush parallel is not an exact fit, though. It’s white jade in that river valley, not gold in California. And it isn’t a new discovery–this source of white jade has been known for centuries–but rather prices 40 times that of gold that are attracting hordes. Hotan is not likely to be the next San Francisco. And I’ve sadly yet to stumble across today’s equivalent of the iconic, Gold Rush-era bartender. But I’m looking.