Chinese mining cities face complex challenges of economic transformation. We conduct a bibliometric analysis of international and Chinese literature of mining cities, and trace the policy evolution of Chinese mining cities. Our results show that the central theme of sustainable transition of mining cities, particularly the shrinking mining cities in Northeast China, has contributed significantly to the recent global discussion on the sustainability of mining cities. This study suggests that, 1) long-term oriented urban plans and economic diversification are the essentials for booming mining cities, 2) it is a crucial issue to untangle the tensions between various strategies of sustainable transition and mismatched institutions in shrinking mining cities, and 3) industrial ecological transition can be taken as an overarching strategy for both the boom and bust periods of mining cities. To break the resource curse of China's mining cities, future research on the complexity of multi-level governance system to facilitate the sustainable transition of mining cities is helpful.