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The Chinese inland province of Sichuan is a contradiction, even by Chinese standards. At 1800 miles from the coast the regional capital of Chengdu is China’s largest inland city, yet sitting as it does on the Yangtze it is also an ocean port. Its quality as both an interior and “coastal” city allows it many of the trade opportunities of Shanghai (not to mention access to Shanghai via the Yangtze), while boasting a labor force that doesn’t need to relocate from elsewhere to serve its needs. Rare among the Chinese provinces, it is even fully self-sufficient in foodstuffs.

Sichuan is about to add one more peculiarity to its list. It is the only portion of China likely to experience a shale revolution in the next 20 years. Its local geology is very similar to America’s Marcellus play, and it already boasts something that most of the rest of China lacks — a local natural gas transport grid and a pre-existing natural gas industry.

For more on the rule of the Chinese interior, see Chapter 14 of The Accidental Superpower.