Category Archives: Property rights

Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic

Neglect of a neighbourhood: oral accounts of life in ‘old Beijing’ since the eve of the People’s Republic. Paper written by Harriet Evans (2014), Urban History, Volume 41, Issue04, November 2014 pp 686-704.

ABSTRACT

Oral accounts of life over seven decades in Dashalanr, a popular neighbourhood in central Beijing, reveal a social world that despite being shaped by the state’s policies of social and political classification, housing and employment, has been resistant to complete appropriation by them. Based on research in the neighbourhood since 2005, and drawing on Xuanwu District archives, this article examines local residents’ accounts of long decades of hardship and neglect. With an analytical framework that links gender with temporality, place and space, it suggests ways in which their singular experiences can be read as historical narrative.

Please click here to read the article (access restricted): http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=9357383

 

Miguel Elosua

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

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Transitional Property Rights and Local Developmental History in China

Paper written by Daniel Abramson, Journal of Urban Studies, 48:553, SAGE (2011). DOI: 10.1177/0042098010390237

Abstract

Among the societies that are moving from a centrally planned economy with weak property rights towards a market-oriented economy with stronger and more privatised property rights, China is undergoing an especially rapid and extensive urbanisation that obscures the diversity and relevance of local pre-Reform property arrangements. Official discourse emphasises the formalisation, clarification and, to some extent, the privatisation of property rights in the name of overall societal development and gradual integration with the global economy. In local informal, popular practice and discourse, however, the invocation of property rights reflects the continuing political relevance of both revolutionary and traditional notions of rights to urban space that challenge a unitary, linear view of the development process.

Using the rather unique case of Quanzhou (泉州), in the province of Fujian, the second-largest qiaoxiang (侨乡) province after Guangdong, Abramson shows how property rights in this town have been protected throughout China’s turbulent twentieth century thanks in part to the special status overseas Chinese have enjoyed during this time.

Please click here to read the article (access restricted): http://usj.sagepub.com/content/48/3/553

Miguel Elosua

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

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Urbachina’s WP5 workshop at LSE

LSE2

Stephan Feuchwang, leader of Urbachina’s work package 5 “Urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles” organised a workshop at the London School of Economics and Political Science on 25 and 26 September. During the workshop, the researchers from this team (Zhang Hui, Luo Pan, Wang Xiaoxia, Jude Howell, Paula Morais, and Renate Krieg) shared their findings for discussion and comparison not only with each other, but also with our two scientific advisers who have vast research experience in urban life and planning in China, Dan Abramson and David Bray, and with a number of others who have conducted research on urban life and governance in China and other parts of the world, including Europe.

The task of this work package on ‘urban development, traditions and modern lifestyles’ has been to investigate how new municipal institutions interact with residents, who bring to their urban relocation ways of organising themselves and improvise new ones. The focal topics were urban government, self-government and social sustainability.

Field research was conducted between March 2012 and April 2014 in the four cities selected by the UrbaChina consortium: the two large cities of Shanghai and Chongqing, and the two medium sized cities of Kunming and Huangshan. It is the most extensive systematic research on urban communities, as well as the most recent to date. One of the main results has been the deconstruction of the very conception of community, as a policy concept and an instrument of governance.

Miguel Elosua

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

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Japanese nail house (dingzihu – 钉子户)?

 

Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN.jpg
Building penetrated by an expressway 001 OSAKA JPN” by ignisOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In the last few years, the phenomenon of the “nail house” (dingzi hu – 钉子户) has become rather frequent in China, as land acquisitions are ubiquitous and residents are usually not satisfied with either with the land seizure or the compensation package. Apparently, the term is a pun coined by developers to refer to “nails that are stuck in wood and cannot be pounded down with a hammer”.1 The existence of this phenomenon suggests that the best way for residents to protect the rights to their homes is to make them their stronghold. This course of action, however, is not risk-free, as many sad events have proved over the last few decades of meteoric development.

Reading about nail houses, I came across this photo of the Gate Tower Building in Osaka, also called the Beehive because it always seems busy. A highway passes through its fifth to seventh floors, of which it is the tenant! Cars pass through the building when exiting the highway.

As explained by Wikipedia2:

 “The elevator passes through the floors without stopping: floor 4 being followed by floor 8. The floors through which the highway passes consist of elevators, stairways and machinery. The highway does not make contact with the building. It passes through as a bridge, held up by supports next to the building. The highway is surrounded by a structure to protect the building from noise and vibration.”

However, the building didn’t exist at the time of the construction of the highway. In fact, both constructions were planned almost at the same time, and the property rights’ holder of the planned office building (who was the owner of the land) and the highway corporation negotiated for five years to reach this arrangement. It was facilitated by a reform in regulations allowing for the development of highways and buildings in the same space, something termed “multi-level road system” in its English translation.

I’m not familiar with the Japanese property rights system but I wonder why the government did not seize the land through expropriation. The construction of highways typically meets the requirement of public use. At any rate, the agreement shows a lot of creativity on the part of both parties and the government to make the best use of limited resources without compromising the interests of everyone involved. It’s also a good compromise to avoid the so-called tragedy of the anticommons, which occurs when property rights’ holders can’t reach an agreement and land remains undeveloped.

  1. See article about holdouts on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holdout_(architecture)#Nail_house []
  2. See article about the Gate Tower Building on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gate_Tower_Building []

Miguel Elosua

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

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Reclaiming the Neighbourhood. Urban redevelopment, citizen activism, and conflicts of recognition in Guangzhou

Bettina Gransow, « Reclaiming the Neighbourhood. Urban redevelopment, citizen activism, and conflicts of recognition in Guangzhou », China Perspectives [Online], 2014/2 | 2014, Online since 01 June 2014, connection on 04 September 2014. URL : http://chinaperspectives.revues.org/6425

This study examines social interventions into the everyday life of residents, families, and communities during a redevelopment project in an old town neighbourhood of Guangzhou. It further analyses how citizen activism unfolds in response to these redevelopment interventions. To better understand contention over the renewal of an old town neighbourhood – beyond negotiation of compensation for economic losses – the study is structured by a recognition-theoretical model of social conflict following Axel Honneth and Nancy Fraser.

Miguel Elosua

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

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Managing Migrant Contestation. Land appropriation, intermediate agency, and regulated space in Shenzhen

Edmund W. Cheng. Managing Migrant Contestation. Land appropriation, intermediate agency, and regulated space in Shenzhen. Published in China Perspectives 2014/2: P.27.

This study considers the conditions under which China’s massive internal migration and urbanisation have resulted in relatively governed, less contentious, and yet fragile migrant enclaves. Shenzhen, the hub for rural-urban migration and a pioneer of market reform, is chosen to illustrate the dynamics of spatial contestation in China’s sunbelt. This paper first correlates the socialist land appropriation mechanisms to the making of the factory dormitory and urban village as dominant forms of migrant accommodation. It then explains how and why overt contention has been managed by certain intermediate agencies in the urban villages that have not only provided public goods but also regulated social order. It ends with an evaluation of the fragility of urban villages, which tend to facilitate urban redevelopment at the expense of migrants’ living space. The interplay between socialist institutions and market forces has thus ensured that migrant enclaves are regulated and integrated into the formal city.

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Elosua

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

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Strategic Modelling: “Building a New Socialist Countryside” in Three Chinese Counties

Anna L. Ahlers and Gunter Schubert (2013). Strategic Modelling: “Building a New Socialist Countryside” in Three Chinese Counties . The China Quarterly, 216, pp 831-849. doi:10.1017/S0305741013001045.

Models, pilots and experiments are considered distinctive features of the Chinese policy process. However, empirical studies on local modelling practices are rare. This article analyses the ways in which three rural counties in three different provinces engage in strategies of modelling and piloting to implement the central government’s “Building a New Socialist Countryside” (shehuizhuyi xinnongcun jianshe) programme. It explains how county and township governments apply these strategies and to what effect. It also highlights the scope and limitations of local models and pilots as useful mechanisms for spurring national development. The authors plead for a fresh look at local modelling practices, arguing that these can tell us much about the realities of governance in rural China today.

  • More information at The China Quarterly: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0305741013001045

 

 

Miguel Elosua

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

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Reform of the hukou: Not a liberalisation of the rural land market

Captura de pantalla 2014-07-30 a las 16.32.49

This news piece concerns the  hukou reform announced on Wednesday (guowuyuan guanyu jinyibu tuijin huji zhidu gaige de yijian – 院关于一步推籍制度改革的意), which plans to eliminate the anachronistic distinction between agricultural  and non-agricultural registration. From now on, citizens will be classified simply as residents. The report explains that the reform won’t affect a liberalisation of rural land rights that would allow urban residents moving towards rural areas and acquire rural land-use rights, which is illegal up to now. The report explains that the reform won’t affect the “bidirectional flow of people” (shuangxiang liudong – 双向流动), in contrast to the existing legal framework that only permits the “one-way circulation of rural residents towards the city”.

Please click here to watch the report on chinanews.com: http://www.chinanews.com/shipin/2014/06-21/news447205.shtml

Miguel Elosua

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

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City scale models and their implications

Maqueta

This photo was taken during UrbaChina’s 4th International Conference, which was held in Chongqing from 28 to 30 May. Attendees paid a visit to the Chongqing Planning Exhibition Gallery. This giant scale model of the city of Chongqing, displays all existing and planned buildings up to 2020. After seeing the scale model and listening to the optimistic presentation, one of the attendees made a very sharp remark observing that such a scale model would be unimaginable in his country, France in this case. He was not talking about the technical difficulty of producing such a model, but to the number of legal questions that would make it virtually impossible to predict the future development of a city in such detail. This scale model not only includes new public spaces that require an expropriation procedure, but also new private developments, condominiums, office buildings, shopping malls, in locations where nowadays probably include only private properties (and collective land). In China, it means that the city agreed many years in advance to expropriate the area of land necessary to carry out this transformation. It means that the local government considers any activity related to urbanisation as able to answer the general interest. It also presupposes that the local government will manage to find the financial resources to undertake the gigantic construction work. Finally, had this been the scale model of a European city, it would also assume that nobody would oppose the urban plan, which is not unusual. Besides, the Courts sometimes decide in favour of the opponents, compelling city planners to modify the plan.

 

Miguel Elosua

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

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Property Taxation in the People’s Republic of China

Description

The property taxation system in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still developing and does not include important features that would make it efficient. For instance, residential property is excluded from the tax base. This has contributed to real estate speculation, income disparity, and revenue losses.

A well-functioning local property tax system in the PRC would provide an efficient, equitable and sustainable way to finance local development and government spending. By helping to align expenditure responsibilities with revenue allocations at the local level, property taxation could reduce inequality in the provision of public goods and foster local government ability to provide them. Further, it will reduce the incentive for speculative behavior mitigating housing bubbles.

To further develop property taxation in the PRC it is recommended to gradually strengthen and expand the existing pilots, supported by clear principles on the delegation of taxation responsibilities, the definition of a nationally standardized tax base, an affordable tax rate, and enhanced local government capacity.

This policy note aims at drawing policy recommendations for future developments in property taxation in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by reviewing best international practices and specific challenges in the PRC.

Miguel Elosua

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

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Who is the collective? (II)

城中村

A village within the city – The village committee’s bureau of Dongshan village in Guiyang city

In last week’s article I introduced the collective, which is designated by the Constitution as holding ownership rights of China’s rural and suburban land. I will analyze in a separate article the reasons why the Chinese leadership granted ownership of rural and suburban land rights to the farmers’ collective instead of declaring State ownership not only of urban, but also of rural land. But first, let’s continue elucidating the nature of the farmers’ collective through the analysis of the organizing bodies that exercise its land property rights.

Article 60 of the Property Rights Law  (2007), which has taken me a long time to unravel, establishes the organizing groups that exercise the collective’s property rights. Article 10 of the Land Management Law (1986), includes a similar provision, although employing the terms “management” (jingying-经营) and “administration” (guanli-管理) instead of the more legal term “exercise of rights” (xingshi suoyouquan-行使所有权), revealing the strong political content of the Land Management Law, which has been widely criticized by Chinese legal scholars.

The three levels of farmers’ collectives are classified according to their territorial scope:

(i)                    Township (town) farmers’ collective (乡(镇)农民集体);

(ii)                  Village farmers’ collective (村农民集体);

(iii)                Inner village farmers’ collective (村内农民集体).

Each of these collectives has a representative body to exercise its rights, which are, respectively:

(i)                    The township (town) farmers’ collective group (乡镇农村集体组织);

(ii)                  The village’s committee (村委会) or economic group of the village (村集体经济组织);

(iii)                The villager’s group (村民小组).

Simply, each class of farmers’ collective have a different size and scope. The township (town) farmers’ collective assembles all the village farmers’ collectives, and each village farmers’ collective is formed by all the inner village farmers’ collectives, which is in turn formed by all the villagers living therein.

It is necessary to explain that the three representative groups of the farmers’ collective succeeded the commune, the brigade, and the team, respectively. However, there is an important difference between the two sets of groups. Before the promulgation of the Constitution, both political and economic ownership rights were vested in them whereas, after, a good part of the economic rights were disaggregated and given to the farmer’s household. In other words, the inner rights of ownership were split, separating bare ownership and usufruct, and granting usufruct rights to the farmers foremost through the house responsibility system (jiating lianchan zerenzhi-家庭联产责任制, now known as chengbao jingying quan zhidu 承包经营权制度).

In conclusion, even though there is still confusion among scholars and cadres about the identity of the collective, the law is not as ambiguous as has often been indicated. The law is not easy to understand, but this is the rule in and out of China. The law defines who holds property rights over rural and suburban land and who exercises these property rights. The key question boils down to determining who or what are these representative groups, and if they do really exercise ownership rights on behalf of the farmers.

Miguel Elosua

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

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Who is the collective? (I)

Cq1

One of the most debated questions regarding land rights in China among Chinese scholars is clarifying the concept of the collective as a holder of land rights.

Article 10 of the Constitution of 1982 (now in force) reads as follows: “Land in the cities is owned by the state. Land in the rural and suburban areas is owned by collectives except for those portions which belong to the state in accordance with the law; house sites and private plots of cropland and hilly land are also owned by collectives. The state may in the public interest take over land for its use in accordance with the law. No organisation or individual may appropriate, buy, sell or lease land, or unlawfully transfer land in other ways. All organisations and individuals who use land must make rational use of the land.”

Apart from the polemic geographic division of land ownership that poses multiple problems of interpretation, this article sanctions the collective as owner of land in the rural and suburban areas. But, who or what is the collective? Who exercises its ownership rights?

The origin of the collective is rooted in the history of Chinese economic planning, when private property gradually disappeared and the power of the Administration to regulate the private lives of citizens became ubiquitous. The collectivisation of the means of production operated from the second half of the twentieth century on, and the consequent control of the market by the Administration led to confusion between public law and private law. All that fell under the domain of the economy was regarded as public law, and the Administration was entitled to interfere in civilian affairs.1 The state’s interest were thus considered greater than the farmer’s (xian guojia, zai jiti, zuihou shi nongmin geren – 先国家,再集体,最后是农民个人), justifying the discretionary behaviour demonstrated by the authorities.2 It is not a legal but a political concept created by the CCP.

According to article 59 of the Property Rights Law the movable and immovable property of the farmers’ collective belongs to its members (nongmin jiti suoyou de budongchan he dongchan, shuyu ben jiti chengyuan jiti suoyou-农民集体所有的不动产和动产,属于本集体成员集体所有). Therefore, according to the law, the concept of collective is equivalent to that of the farmers’ collective (集体=农民集体). Hence, rural land is collectively owned by the collective’s members.

Once we know that farmers are the legal owners of rural and suburban land we should analyze how farmers exercise their collectively owned property rights, so as to determine the essence of the collective. Article 60 of the same law sheds some light on this question, elucidating which organised bodies exercise farmers’ collective ownership rights.

  1. Liang Huixing (1993) Minfa xue shuopan li yu lifa yanjiu.Beijing: Zhonguo zhengfa daxue chubanshe []
  2. Chen Xiaojun, deng (2012) Nongcun tudi falv zhidu de xianshi kaocha yu yanjiu – zhongguo shisheng tiaoyan baogao shu. Beijing: Falv chubanshe []

Miguel Elosua

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

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A vanishing Chongqing

This photo was taken behind the Ciyun monastery (慈云寺) in Nanan district (南岸区), Chongqing, on 30 May 2014.

There is a quote credited to William Faulkner, but which I have never been able to confirm, and describes perfectly the experience of walking through Nanan district: “A landscape is conquered with the soles of the shoes, not the wheels of a car“. Walking the steep and narrow streets of this doomed district is the only way to imagine and somehow feel how life was before urbanisation and modernisation brought all the artefacts seen in the background of this photo. This neighbourhood is a remnant of old Chongqing, tightly tucked away on the bank of the Yangtze in the shadow of a new bridge, across from the Jiefangbei CBD (located in Chaotianmen), on the other side of the river. Chaotianmen is at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze Rivers, at the tip of Yuzhong peninsula.

A vanishing Chongqing (II), Elosua Miguel

This old man spends a few hours a day taking care of his orchards, which are scattered around the neighbourhood. In spite of his old age, 93 years, he negotiates these steep steps with an astounding vitality. Looking at him, one marvels at his strength. But it also makes one wonder what the rationale is for building a city on such difficult terrain. A friend who walked the streets with me, who happens to be a geographer, suggested the easy access to water, to fishing and to trade routes as the most plausible reason.

A vanishing Chongqing (III), Elosua Miguel

The old man’s wife is 84 years old and also looks very healthy. The crutches are just temporary, as she’s recovering from a minor injury. Neither of them speaks Mandarin but the local dialect, as is often the case among the elderly. Looking at them, one just hopes that the bulldozers will not arrive before the old man and his wife have seen out their days in the only place that they have really known. To uproot them would probably break them.

A vanishing Chognqing, Elosua Miguel

Miguel Elosua

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

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Urbanization, development, and China’s “land-lost”

Lian, Hongping and Raul P. Lejano (2014). Interpreting institutional fit: urbanization, development, and China’s “land-lost”World Development, 61, pp.1-10.

Urbanization-led development brings not just demographic, technological, and economic change, but profound institutional transition, as well. The scale and pace of China’s urbanization project have generated a crisis for millions living in rural–urban peripheries. We will utilize a model of institutional fit to conduct a critical analysis of China’s urbanization program and its implementation problems. Utilizing a semi-structured interview format, we analyze the experiences of the so-called “land-lost” residents in Changsha, China, vis-à-vis this ongoing institutional transition. The analysis provides a rich account of the myriad ways the transition to a privatized property market runs counter to the collective nature of peri-urban Chinese communities.

Read full text article on ScienceDirect (restricted access)

Monique Abud

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

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Policy implementation through the lowest levels of the state

This presentation was given by Stephan Feuchtwang during the 4th international conference of UrbaChina held in Chongqing from May 28th to May 30th, 2014. It shows the results of the fieldwork completed this year in five neighbourhood committees (juweihui-居委会) in Chongqing.

Miguel Elosua

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

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