China's new rural land reform? Assessment and prospects

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Journal article

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China Perspectives

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Francais sur la Chine Contemporaine China


The Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee that closed last November promised to “comprehensively deepen reforms” and introduced a number of measures that seek to expand the role of the market in the economy. One of the key reform areas is land – a major source of social unrest in China – on which Chinese leaders have reiterated the promise of giving more property rights to farmers while granting them more freedom to transfer, rent out, or mortgage collectively-owned rural land on the market.

Does this signify the official beginning of China’s new rural land reform? This article seeks to understand why the Chinese authorities are undertaking such reforms to address various land-related issues, and also to evaluate how progressive they are when compared to other land transfer experiments that have already been taking place in different parts of China. It argues that while the Third Plenum reforms point in the direction of reducing state monopoly on rural land transfer and restoring land use rights to farmers, they are nothing very new. More importantly, these reforms cannot enjoy much success unless more drastic reforms are undertaken. Such reforms include reconfiguring the power relations between local governments and farmers in a way that owners of collective land will truly secure their landuse rights, as well as a thorough fiscal and tax reform that reduces the reliance of local government on land sales.

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Yuen, S. (2014). China's new rural land reform? Assessment and prospects. China Perspectives, 2014(1), 61-65. Retrieved from http://www.cefc.com.hk/download.php?file=69889007f154b09ef3344de0e2d4a397&id=100046848