Can't all have a Terracotta army
Exacerbating Yulin's difficulties, nearby cities that were similarly reliant on traditional industries, such as Ordos and Baotou in Inner Mongolia, are trying to attract comparable kinds of investment projects and develop industries such as tourism.
"It's hard for us to develop a tourism industry. We don't have the same history as Xi'an," the retired SOE official said, referring to the ancient home of China's terracotta warriors.
"You come to Yulin maybe once in your life and you're finished seeing the whole city in half a day."
The government is also trying to boost consumption, both through e-commerce and bricks and mortar stores, but locals have been hesitant to spend in the downturn, with Walmart Stores Inc pulling out of Yulin early last year, Zhang from the investment bureau told Reuters.
Meanwhile real estate projects, a favourite growth stimulant for local governments in China, have dried up, meaning fewer jobs for migrant worker and less demand for raw materials.
Sprinkled around the city are empty or half-completed apartment buildings, a far cry from the days locals planted their excess cash made from the resources boom in property.
"Most of these projects are from years ago and many of them stopped mid-way, when the developers and construction companies ran out of money," said the official at the commerce bureau.
Blessed with abundant sunshine and wind, the government is hoping to develop the region's renewables industry, but demand for energy and electricity has shrunk as the property sector has tanked.
To be sure, Yulin hasn't abandoned the industries that fuelled its economic boom - indeed, some of its efforts to make its oil and coal companies more competitive are starting to pay off.
The Yulin Coal Trade Center has shifted from logistics and quality control to providing clients with a full supply chain, from procurement to financing options, according to Luo Wenjie, from the company's operations department.
Their clients are scattered around the country, and mostly find the company on popular online platforms such as WeChat.
"Unlike smaller companies that may swap out Yulin's high-quality coal for lower-quality coal, we're big enough to provide clients with peace of mind that we won't do that," said Luo, adding that the company has 100,000 employees.
"Our competitive advantage is that we aren't going to run off with our client's money."