What is happening in China? When China unveiled its plan to urbanize over 250 million rural Chinese over the next dozen years, prestigious news outlets turned to Landesa, whose founder Roy Prosterman was 2009 Kravis Prize winner, for its expertise on land-rights issues.

In “China’s Great Uprooting,” an article that is part of a series by The New York Times on that nation’s changing identity,  Gao Yu, the China country director for Landesa, offered commentary to the news outlet on some major concerns regarding China’s program.

Gao first spoke on the impulse to modernize, noting how “[t]here’s this feeling that we have to modernize, we have to urbanize and this is our national-development strategy.”

The speed of the development campaign is also a cause for concern as Gao Yu compares it, in the article, to the disastrous Maoist campaign in the 1950s: “It’s almost like another Great Leap Forward.”

That said, the new policy could also prevent local governments from forcibly taking over rural land. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, local officials provide limited compensation to the farmers, and then sell long-term leases to factory owners and real estate developers.

Li Ping, senior attorney at the Beijing office of Landesa, spoke on the motivations of local governments in an interview with Bloomberg: “Local governments have an incentive to push this distorted urbanization, to grab all that profit.” The modernization policy would increase the involvement of the federal government, which would remove and organize the incentives of the local government urbanization plans. As China’s ambitious agenda begins to be implemented, it is unclear whether it will be successful or damaging to that country’s future but it is clear that Landesa’s analysis on land-rights issues will continue to be timely and relevant.


Making headlines in the summer: Pratham, Landesa, and FAWE

Sakena Yacoobi at Princeton and in the Huff Post