Land expropriation in China

Zhang, Xian. Seeking just compensation for collective-owned land expropriation in China. Short Academic Paper, Peking University (July 1, 2013). 18 p. Available at SSRN: or

In the process of urbanization, China needs to expropriate more and more collective-owned lands in order to satisfy the need of city construction and development. However, when the collective-owned lands are expropriated currently, peasants get very low compensation for their loss in improvements, green crops, and land use rights.Why Chinese peasants get such a low compensation? From legal aspect, it is illegal for the Collective to sell its land directly in the market. China does not allow a market for the transfer of collective-owned land, the compensation lacks of a comparable market standard. In addition, the Land Administration Law requires the compensation to be based on the original purpose of land expropriated and administrative pricing. That leads the compensation standard to be far away from fair market value. From incentive aspect, the local government needs extra-budgetary revenue to fill the huge gap between its tax revenue and fiscal expenditure. The price spread between land-transferring fees and compensation turn into local government’s extra-budgetary revenue. Thus, the local government has great incentive to lower the compensation. With the discretion on deciding what qualifies public use, local government can expropriate as many collective-owned lands as possible, in order to generate more extra-budgetary revenue.

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Chen, Lei. Legal and institutional analysis of land expropriation in China (October 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

China has a bifurcated land system, with clear distinctions between urban and rural land use rights. While state-owned land in urban areas has become commercially transferable, rural land cannot be transferred. This discrepancy has been exploited by property developers, investors, village heads and local governments, which has caused wide-spread, large-scale malpractice in relation to expropriation of land. Thus, conflict over expropriation of land has been, and continues to be, a simmering hotpot of social unrest in China. It has been claimed that land disputes over expropriation is one of the most common ways of provoking grassroots resistance and undermining public confidence in the government. How should the grievances suffered by the rural farmers be redressed, and how should the Chinese government draw the fine line between economic development and individual property rights? In order to answer these questions, this paper addresses the root causes of land disputes both from a legal perspective, evaluating the most recent statutory changes, and from the policy perspective, analyzing the national strategy of integrating urban and rural areas (城乡一体化), including the recent local experiments on transforming the inalienability of rural land use rights.

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See also

Roberts, Dexter (November 20, 2013). Is land reform finally coming to China? Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 10 February 2014 from

China’s leaders raised a multitude of reforms as priorities at the plenum that closed a week ago. A key one, a change in land ownership so that farmers can more freely rent, sell, and mortgage their land, is hoped to boost China’s still laggard household consumption.

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Sargeson, Sally (2012). Villains, victims and aspiring proprietors : framing ‘land-losing villagers’ in China’s strategies of accumulation. Journal of Contemporary China, 21 (77),  757-777. DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2012.684962

This paper examines how debates in the media are providing the discursive conditions for, and thereby giving impetus to, diverse strategies of ‘so-called primitive accumulation’ in China. Taking as its empirical referent Chinese news and journal articles on land enclosure, the paper analyzes three frames in which policy entrepreneurs craft varying class positions for land-losing villagers. Grounded in different ontological premises, problem diagnoses and recommendations centering on the adoption of either a statist, neo-collective or liberal rural land regime, and backed up by evaluations of local policy experiments, the frames illustrate the diversity of ideational, political and institutional configurations that could facilitate the separation of peasant producers from the land, place land-losing villagers in different relationships with the state and capital, and sustain accumulation. In foregrounding these debates over land-losing villagers’ future class positioning, the paper aims to offer a corrective to the historical determinism implicit in contemporary analyses that characterize enclosure in China as simply one national manifestation of homogenous, global neo-liberal projects of ‘accumulation by dispossession’ or ‘gangster capitalism’.

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Cite this blog post
Monique Abud (2014, February 13). Land expropriation in China. URBACHINA. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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