As China’s economy develops, so does its landscape. But, according to Bloomberg, not always with the consent of Chinese farmers or landowners. Bloomberg reported that in China, “city governments rely on land sales for much of their revenue” and that the country is “increasingly seeking to cash in on real estate prices that have risen 140 percent since 1998 by appropriating land and flipping it to developers for huge profits.”

The Wall Street Journal recently published an op-ed by Landesa President and CEO Tim Hanstad, who also discussed the lack of property rights for Chinese farmers. Hanstad cited significant findings from Landesa’s nationwide survey, which he said shed light on how rural reforms can help maintain “continued growth and social harmony” in China.

“Only about half of all villages have given farmers legal documentation of their land rights. Local authorities are charged by the central government with issuing such documents, but often lack the political will or funding to do so. Lack of this kind of documentation is a significant economic hurdle. Landesa’s survey found that farmers with legal land contracts are 76% more likely to make long-term, productivity-enhancing investments such as greenhouses, orchards, irrigation and terracing. By fully implementing current laws and protecting farmers’ land rights, China’s government could effectively increase farmers’ land values (for agricultural use only) by roughly $750 billion, according to Landesa’s estimates.”

Gao Yu, China director of Landesa, also sounded off on Chinese land development, noting that “the seizures frequently lead to local officials violating farmers’ rights that the national government has sought to improve since 1998 when it gave them 30-year tenure over their land.”

You can learn more about Landesa (formerly the Rural Development Institute) here and find out more information about its founder, Roy Prosterman, the 2006 Kravis Prize winner, here.

Anchoring Land Rights in China” [The Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2011]
Chinese See Communist Land Sales Hurting Mao’s Poor To Pay Rich” [Bloomberg, October 23, 2011]