Category Archives: Elosua, Miguel

Killing Time

Ping Pong

This photo was taken in November 2013 in Nanchuan district, Chongqing. Farmers have been relocated and concentrated in a remote area with little or no public transportation (as of the date when the photo was taken). The concentration of farmers’ homesteads usually takes place in order to optimise the use of arable land as farmers’ homes are scattered throughout the fields and this is an obstacle for the consolidation of arable land now taking place everywhere around the country. Other motivations include the preservation of the threshold of arable land set by the central government by recovering arable land, the improvement of rural infrastructures, and the search of a solution for the problem of the hollow villages (due to the massive migration of young people to the cities, many homesteads remain empty most of the time). A concentration of resources takes place, and farmers are relocated to newly built residential communities (xinxing nongcun shequ – 新型农村社区). Usually, farmers lease the new consolidated land to a cooperative, and some of them continue working the land as employees of the cooperative.

This case is very different. The local government has used the expropriated land in a more lucrative way for its budget, as it has managed to attract private investment (a real estate developer listed in the Hong Kong Stock Market), and develop a tourist town with houses dedicated to the upper-middle class of Chongqing who are in the look for a weekend retreat outside of the metropolitan area. Normally, the law interdicts urban residents to buy rural land but, through the intervention of the visible hand of the government, farmers’ land is expropriated and converted into state land. The miracle is performed. Profits are handsome for the local government, for the real estate developer and, by extension, for all the investors who put their savings into this company, and who will see the dividend payout increase as a result of the difficult-to-match-elsewhere performance of the company. The only ones who won’t make a penny are the original owners of the land.

As a result, the collective economic system is completely wiped out. Farmers will not recuperate their land, except if they buy it at the market price (unattainable after the development of the area). They have a sense of having been cheated. There have been barred from entering the new town, except for the few lucky ones who will be hired by the developer for gardening work. The construction of their new town miles away from the tourist area limits the possibility for entrepreneurism. Youngsters leave their ancestral land to look for a job in the city, and the old ones remain in the new town, which becomes a retirement town. Most of them do not have enough savings for paying the utilities’ bill and need to improvise outdoor kitchens. They live off the remittances from their offspring.

During the Third Plenum of the 18th Chinese Communist Party Congress held in Beijing in November 2013, the government announced plans to implement reforms regarding farmers’ construction land-use rights. The Chinese leadership finally agreed on the need to equate rural construction land use rights with urban construction land rights under the “same land same rights” principle (tongdi tongquan – 同地同权).1 Would farmers agree to sell their homesteads and be grouped in new residential communities given the choice to transfer their land use rights to whomever they wish?

 

  1. Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to strengthen the important problems posed by the reform (zhonggong zhongyang guanyu quanmian shenhua gaige ruogan zhongda wenti de jueding– 中共中央关于全面深化改革若干重大问题的决定). http://www.hmdjw.gov.cn/article/show-4104.html. Last retrieved December 10, 2013. []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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The pride of the family

These photos were taken in December 2013 in Anshun city, Guizhou province. They show two school diplomas granted to the two daughters of a family who finished first and second in their class. The two unframed photos hanged on the bare walls of the living room.

Prize

Prize2

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Uxcester Garden City project

David Rudlin of URBED was the winner of the Wolfson Economics Prize 2014, announced in September 2014, with the Uxcester Garden City project:

Vision:  We illustrate how the city of Uxcester could double its size by adding three substantial urban extensions each housing around 50,000 people. These lie within a zone 10km from the city centre and are configured as triangles with only the point touching the edge of the settlement. The farmland around the city is currently not accessible to the public and of little ecological value. The concept is that for every hectare of development another will be given back to the city as accessible public space, forests, lakes country parks etc… Each of these satellite extensions would be served by a tram or Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running from the existing mainline station on disused lines and then switching to on-street running to loop through the new neighbourhoods. The housing would be developed incrementally to create space for small developers and self-builders alongside the volume housebuilders in a process that recreates the way that the great estates were built in London.   

Popularity: Extending an existing city solves some problems but creates others. The greatest of these will be the task of winning over the existing community, which is likely to be articulate and honed by years of experience resisting development. We suggest a ‘Social Contract’ that would address the concerns of this community. Rather than a future spent fighting years of ill-planned development, the Garden City would offer the prospect of a clear 40 year vision that accommodates development while minimising its impact. The satellite extensions are planned to minimise their visual impact, to create a green grid of accessible open space and to generate investment in new transport infrastructure and city centre facilities to benefit the whole of the community. The aim is to re-frame the argument by getting cities to bid to be designated as a Garden City as they currently bid for City of Culture. 

Economic Viability and Governance:  In the absence of large scale subsidy the only solution to the economics of the Garden City is what Ebenezer Howard called the ‘unearned increment’. We are proposing a deal for landowners in which they trade a small chance of securing a housing consent on their land, for a guarantee of receiving existing use value plus substantial compensation and a financial stake in the Garden City Trust. We have assumed that the land will be brought at an average cost of £350,000 per hectare, 20 times its current agricultural value but only 15% of its value as housing land. The economics of the scheme are based on these differentials. We have assumed that, by extending an existing town rather than building from scratch we can reduce the infrastructure bill from £80,000 to £60,000 per unit. Even assuming that half of the land acquired is used as open space, this still generates sufficient value to fund this level of infrastructure spending. By selling the sites to developers at a fixed price and providing the infrastructure collectively, a market incentive will be created to invest in the quality of the housing.   

The process would be managed by the Garden City Trust that would be owned jointly by the local councils, central government, the local community and land owners – and their stakes would have a tradable capital value. The Garden City Trust would be vested with the land, would commission masterplanning work and then use the equity of the land to raise a Bond to fund the initial investment in infrastructure. Development would take place on a rolling programme with the early land receipts being reinvested. The experience in Holland suggests that such a rolling programme can procure infrastructure investment three times greater that the value of the initial bond.    

We describe the seven ages of the Garden City Trust from its conception and birth through its infancy and adolescence to maturity, middle age and eventually retirement. Over time the role of the trust will evolve as it moves from the development stage to the management phase where it will be structured to enable the local community to take on the stewardship of their neighbourhoods. Rising values over the life of the project will allow initial investments to be repaid. This is not a new model, it is the modern day equivalent of the great estates like Grosvenor or The Bournville Village Trust. 

Our model addresses the weaknesses in the system that have made it so difficult to match the quality of the schemes we admire on the continent. We have debated as a team whether we are being too ambitious with the size of the settlement we are proposing. However nationally we need to increase housing production by the equivalent of one Milton Keynes every year. We therefore need bold strokes to radically increase the rate at which we are building and Uxcester provides a model to do just this. 

For more information on URBED and the submission, click here: http://www.urbed.coop/wolfson-economic-prize

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Will urbanisation do away with nomads?

Tibetan couple

This photo was taken near Langmu monastery (Langmusi – 浪木寺) in April 2010. This area marks the administrative dividing line between the provinces of Gansu and Sichuan. According to the Tibetan division, however, the region belongs to Amdo, the easternmost Tibetan region, which covers part of Qinghai, part of Sichuan, and a small corner in southwestern Gansu, also known as Gannan (South Gansu).

Most Amdo Tibetans are natural born nomads. Gannan is a region rich in pastures where herders have rambled since ancestral times (70% of its total area). The yak is closely associated to the Tibetan identity: it provides milk for butter, yogurt and cheese, hair for weaving into tents and rope, with the finer fabric made into clothing, and meat.1 Traditionally, nomads would move with each season, but today their lifestyle is suffering a substantial transformation, perhaps at its most threatened.

The Chinese government is determined to push on with sedentarisation policies. Land degradation is often cited as the main reason for sedentarising nomads. Numerous Chinese scholars support these sedentarisation policies.

Attempts to sedentarise nomads are intrinsic to Central and East Asian history, which has always been characterised by a fight between nomads and farmers. China and Russia have both tried several times to do away with nomadic riders. For over a thousand years horses were an advantage in warfare and nomads bred the best. Therefore, they represented a threat and, at the same time, an appealing booty. In the 1890s, Russia attempted to transform nomads in reliable taxpayers by encouraging their settlement. It did so by fostering a massive colonisation of farmers. Thus, people from different regions occupied the Central Asian pasturelands. It is estimated that between 1896 and 1916, more than one million colonist took over one-fifth of the land. By 1912, Turkestan produced 64% of Russian cotton. These policies would later be reinforced by the Soviet Union, and Central Asia became a mostly one-crop economy.2

In China, grasslands cover more than 40% of the country, which represents four times the area of its forests and three times its total arable land. In contrast to agricultural land, grassland is state-owned unless a collective title can be legally proven.3 This situation has stirred up conflict between local governments and collectives since there seems to be no legal mechanism available to prove property as pasturelands have traditionally been used according to customary tenure.4 Likewise, although the House Responsibility System was successfully implemented in agricultural lands, it brought about many changes to the nomadic lifestyle since nomads’ access to vast expanses of land was restricted as a result. This has in turn led to overgrazing in some cases due to the small size of land available for pasture for each family unit.5

Herders often are deprived of grazing lands due to land reclamation for commercial or farming use. The quest for resources and the consequent mining boom has been another common cause of expropriation in Inner Mongolia (coal production rose almost 50% in 2010). And courts are often reluctant to hear cases related to the inappropriate use of grasslands.6

Nowadays, nomads in China no longer rely on horses, but on motorcycles. Nomadic life has changed somewhat since Tibetans have been provided with houses and a living stipend under the resettlement programme, so they no longer look for pasture during the winter

Infrastructure is improving greatly. Once isolated, the region of Gannan is getting closer to Gansu and Sichuan’s capitals by the day. A modern highway well into construction will soon cross its heart. To make this possible, some mountain zones were dug up to build consecutive tunnels stretching for more than 20 kilometers. Good communication brings tourists and settlers alien to these lands once again.

The term semi-nomadic would be therefore more appropriate to define Amdo Tibetans. They usually just alternate between a winter home and a summer tent. During winter, children attend school. Education is an important part of the resettlement program. According to a report on the resettlement of Kham Tibetans written by Kieran Dodds for the South China Morning Post,7 resettlement is producing an educated but rurally ignorant generation. “Education will ruin our culture”, laments a Tibetan teacher interviewed by Dodds, when describing how compulsory education is driving the resettlement of nomads. As discussed with Norha’s Tibetan entrepreneurs, the problem is that authorities give economic allowances, build houses, but don’t provide job opportunities that may constitute an alternative to herding. Thus, sedentarisation policies often lead to alcoholism and more criminality as recipients of allowances become idle, having given up what they do best.

Bob Dylan is claimed to have said that a man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do. He might well have got inspiration from the lifestyle of nomads in places such as Mongolia, Tibet, and the Central Asian steppes. It would be interesting to see whether Amdo semi-nomads still manage to be a success once urbanisation and sedentarisation policies have been fully implemented. The only clear thing is that no one is immune to the homogenisation of lifestyles taking shape in the world, not even the traditionally most resilient tribes of the northern steppes.

 

  1. The Yak. Gerald Wiener (2003) FAO. United Nations. []
  2. Peter B. Golden (2011) Central Asia in World History. Oxford University Press. []
  3. PRC Constitution, Article 9. []
  4. Peter Ho (2005) Institutions in Transition: Land Ownership, Property Rights and Social Conflict in China, Oxford University Press. []
  5. Ostrom, E.J. (1999) Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges. Science Vol. 284, Nº5412. []
  6. South China Morning Post, Mongolians “sidelined” in mining growth, 1 juin 2011. []
  7. Promised land. SCMP. 6 January, 2013. []

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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The state of social welfare in China

Article written by Urban Marie « L’état de la protection sociale en Chine » Revue française d’administration publique, 2014/2 N° 150, p. 467-479. DOI : 10.3917/rfap.150.0467.

The Chinese welfare system has been gradually expanded since the early 2000s to cover the entire Chinese population. Despite extensive coverage, it is still a geographically fragmented and disparate system, which provides unequal protection depending on whether people live in urban or rural areas. People living in rural areas receive very few benefits and still depend upon family solidarity to cope with illness or old age, while migrant workers, because of their precarious status, remain largely excluded from the social welfare system. The Chinese system needs to be further reformed to guarantee greater equality in the payment of pensions and access to care, thus ensuring it is sustainable in the medium term, just as the ageing of the population is raising issues regarding its funding.

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Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Cultural and Institutional Bifurcation: Clan versus City

Cultural and Institutional Bifurcation: China and Europe Compared. Article written by Avner Greif and Guido Tabellini. American Economic Review, May 2010.

 How to sustain cooperation is a key challenge for any society. Different social organizations have evolved in the course of history to cope with this challenge by relying on different combinations of external ( formal and informal)  enforcement institutions and intrinsic motivation. Some societies rely more on informal enforcement and moral obligations within their constituting groups. Others rely more on formal enforcement and general moral obligations towards society at large. How do culture and institutions interact in generating different evolutionary trajectories of societal organizations? Do contemporary attitudes, institutions, and behavior reflect distinct pre-modern trajectories?

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Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Urban spatial restructuring, event-led development and scalar politics

Hyun Bang Shin (2014) Urban spatial restructuring, event-led development and scalar politics. Urban Studies, November 2014 vol. 51 no. 14. DOI:10.1177/0042098013515031.

This paper uses Guangzhou’s experience of hosting the 2010 Asian Games to illustrate Guangzhou’s engagement with scalar politics. This includes concurrent processes of intra-regional restructuring to position Guangzhou as a central city in south China and a ‘negotiated scale-jump’ to connect with the world under conditions negotiated in part with the overarching strong central state, testing the limit of Guangzhou’s geopolitical expansion. Guangzhou’s attempts were aided further by using the Asian Games as a vehicle for addressing condensed urban spatial restructuring to enhance its own production/accumulation capacities, and for facilitating urban redevelopment projects to achieve a ‘global’ appearance and exploit the city’s real estate development potential. Guangzhou’s experience of hosting the Games provides important lessons for expanding our understanding of how regional cities may pursue their development goals under the strong central state and how event-led development contributes to this.

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Author’s personal website: http://urbancommune.net/

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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A kindergarten surrounded by rubble at a demolition site in Xi’an

Kindergarten

A kindergarten at a demolition site in the city of Xi’an, Shaanxi province. The photo was taken by China Stringer Network and published by Reuters on 8 December 2014.

According to the local government, the kindergarten has been running without a license and will be forced to shut down. The owner of the school signed the 20-year lease agreement three months before the demolition work started. On 8 December, the mother of a 2 and a half year old toddler went to the school to ask for a fee reimbursement. Apparently, she had not payed attention to the surrounding area when registering her infant and actually quite liked the environment.

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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城市规划原理 (Principles of urban planning)

4th edition of the volume edited by a team of professors from the Tongji University, with Li Dehua (李德华) as chief editor. Published by Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chubanshe (中国建筑工业出版社) in 2010.

PUP

《高校城市规划专业指导委员会规划推荐教材:城市规划原理(第4版)》系统地阐述了城乡规划的基本原理、规划设计的原则和方法,以及规划设计的经济问题。主要内容分22章叙述,包括城市与城市化、城市规划思想发展、城市规划体制、城市规划的价值观、生态与环境、经济与产业、人口与社会、历史与文化、技术与信息、城市规划的类型与编制内容、城市用地分类及其适用性评价、城乡区域规划、总体规划、控制性详细规划、城市交通与道路系统、城市生态与环境规划、城市工程系统规划、城乡住区规划、城市设计、城市遗产保护与城市复兴、城市开发规划、城市规划管理。

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Arrival city: how the largest migration in history is reshaping our world

Arrival City: How the Largest Migration in History is Reshaping Our World. Book written by Doug Saunders, and published by Knopf Canada (September 21, 2010).

Arrival city

What will be remembered about our century, more than anything except perhaps changes to the climate, is the final shift of human populations from agricultural life to cities, the effects of which are being felt around the world. Arrival City gives us an on-the-ground view of this phenomenon—from Maryland to Shenzhen, from thefavelas of Rio to the shanty towns of Mumbai, from Los Angeles to Nairobi.

Doug Saunders introduces us to the migrants themselves, and with the aid of their stories elucidates their essential part in the economic fabric. He makes clear that the cities and nations that provide citizenship and opportunity to migrants stand to benefit as the migrant class evolves into a middle class, and he explains why those that ignore these people will see increased social unrest, poverty, and religious fundamentalism.

 

 

 

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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A boy being photographed by his family, and a boy being abandoned by his family

Emperor2

The first photo was taken on 21 November 2014 in Pudong New District, Shanghai. The second was taken in Guangzhou, and was featured in an articled written by Alex Millson, and published by the South China Morning Post on 2 April 2014. They reflect two consequences of the CCP’s policies. The first one might be a result of the One-Child Policy, the second of the absence of a comprehensive social security system. According to the article, the city closed the doors of a “baby hatch” just after two months of its opening due to the overwhelming number of children who were abandoned, all of them ill or disabled.

Captura de pantalla 2014-11-21 a las 10.40.43

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Rule of law: one term, two characters, many meanings

Article written by Cary Huang and published by the South China Morning Post on November 10th, 2014.

President Xi Jinping called for it, the Communist Party endorsed it and the country’s judicial system is to be governed by it but there is still no consensus on how it should be rendered in English.

At the end of the annual gathering of the party’s elite last month, leaders backed Xi’s push to promote fazhi – a concept officially translated as “rule of law”. But others argue that the term is better translated as “rule by law” or “rule through law” to drive home the point that whatever the changes to the system, the law is not something unto itself – it’s there to serve the party.

Please click here to read the rest of the article (restricted access): http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1635985/rule-law-one-term-two-characters-many-meanings

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Ambiguous Rights: Land Reform and the Problem of Minor Property Rights Housing

« Ambiguous Rights: Land Reform and the Problem of Minor Property Rights Housing », paper written by Karita Kan (2012). China Perspectives, 2012/3.

Minor property rights housing (xiao chanquan fang 小产权房) is an unofficial term referring to illegal residential structures built on rural, collectively-owned land that is sold or rented to non-local urbanites. Its controversial legal status stems from the dual ownership structure in China’s land regime. According to Article 8 of the Land Administration Law, the state claims ownership of urban land, while land in rural and suburban areas is owned, unless otherwise stipulated, collectively by rural residents represented by peasant collectives. Rural collective land is theoretically reserved for the exclusive use of villagers, and should be not sold, transferred, or leased to non-rural residents. The real estate boom and successive hikes in property prices have nevertheless provided strong incentives for rural landowners to capture the monetary benefits of urban development through selling and leasing land and houses to urbanites looking for affordable accommodation.

Please, click here to read the full text: http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/5970

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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Working paper UrbaChina no.4 now online

The UrbaChina team is pleased to announce the publication of the 4th UrbaChina working paper entitled “Central-local authority relationships and the institutional process of city creation“, edited by Ai Chi-han (Nanfang College, Sun Yat-sen University), Miguel Elosua (EHESS) and prof. Li Shantong (DRC).

As one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, China is experiencing the largest scale of urbanisation in human history. More and more land is required to support this massive urbanisation. However, rural land acquisition and compensation to the changes in farmers’ household registration (hukou) are complex issues in the process of urbanisation under the dual land tenure between city and rural areas in China. Furthermore, local government has been under increasing financial pressure after the tax sharing system was implemented in 1994. To raise funds and develop urban construction, various cities have undertaken different strategies of land development during their on-going urbanisation, which is also discussed in this study. Urbanisation is a process of expanding urban space with a view to develop the land efficiently. Therefore, the objective of this study is to introduce the dual land system in China, the evolution of farmers’ collective land ownership, and the process of governmental land acquisition. Subsequently, we will examine the case of the case of Shanghai Pudong New Area, which develops land with an insufficient financial support and its corresponding solutions. Finally, the authors highlight problems in the process of land acquisition and land development.

The UrbaChina working paper no.4 is now available on open access at the hal-FP7 UrbaChina paper collection.

Recommended citation: Ai, C., Elosua, M., & Li, Shantong. (2014). Central-local authority relationships and the institutional process of city creation (UrbaChina Working Paper no.4 October 2014). Paris: CNRS. Retrieved from https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01076092v1

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE – Nottingham Trent University)

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New pilot plan to liberalise the rural land market

Farmer

The government is about to approve a new pilot plan, aimed at liberalising rural construction land-use rights, by granting farmers the right to transfer and use rural land-use rights as collateral. The follow-up document, nongdi rushi shidian fang’an (农地入市试点方案), aims at developing the policies issued from the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the CCP held in November 2013.

According to the plan, all collective construction land that meets the requirements of the urban plan could be transferred, leased, or mortgaged. The collective economic system will operate a transformation into a shareholding system, through land contributions. The period of tenure will be identical to urban construction land-use rights.

The plan introduces a system, well known in Western legal systems, by which society as a whole have a right to participate in the economic benefits brought by urbanisation. Thus, the government might levy taxes on the increase in land value that accrues when it is transferred. In Spain, this principle is incorporated in Article 47 of the constitution, which declares that “the community shall have a share in the benefits accruing from the town-planning policies of public bodies”, which is a specific reference to the increase in the value of land accrued as a consequence of the modification of its use from rural to urban. It might turn out to be an excellent tool to increase the local government’s revenue, putting an end to the expropriation game, and hopefully improving the lives of millions of farmers.

For more information on the draft plan, please click here (source in Chinese): http://www.eeo.com.cn/2014/1017/267452.shtml.

Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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