Many loss-making Chinese steel mills could finally be ready to shut their doors this year, with the government expected to offer more incentives for stricken enterprises to close as the economy slows and a war on smog intensifies.
For years, hundreds of poorly-regulated mills dodged policies aimed at solving the perennial problems of pollution and overcapacity, protected by surging demand and the reluctance of local authorities to jeopardize growth and employment.
But tougher environmental enforcement and a slowdown in demand have now mired the sector in losses, leaving firms struggling to pay wages or upgrade technology. The head of a state-owned mill said this month that 2015 could end up being the sector's worst year yet.
From last year, regulators promised to give the market a bigger say in deciding which mills would close, but many have clung on longer than expected in the hope that rivals perish first, propped up by local authorities terrified by the prospect of unemployment and unrest.