Fushun, a city built on coal in China’s industrial northeast, is in full-blown recession.

Liu Junfen, a scrap-metal merchant who gathers discarded bicycles, hubcaps and gas cylinders to feed to local steel furnaces, says that prices have plunged by two-thirds since China’s overbuilt real-estate market took a dive in 2014—if she can find buyers for her junk at all.

As for this year’s prospects—“Gou qiang,” she sighs, an expression that means something like “unbearable.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of China, the coastal city of Shenzhen clocked sizzling growth of 8.9% last year. Shenzhen is the home of Tencent, a social-media company whose QQ network boasts more than 800 million users, along with the telecommunications giant Huawei. Vincent Hu, the chief executive of Cloud Frame, a company that builds data centers, is assembling a monster-sized facility for Amazon, and he sees no end to expansion as consumers embrace e-commerce, online banking and video-sharing. “You only have to use your imagination,” he says.

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