Tag Archives: expropriation

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


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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Persuasion through negotiation

Persuasion through negotiation, Elosua Miguel

A building about to be demolished near the ancient town of Ciqikou (磁器口), in Chongqing. The local government plans to tear the whole neighbourhood down and rebuild it with new “old buildings” at its core. The new “old street” will become a commercial area and numerous apartment buildings will be built around it. The process of expropriation forces authorities to negotiate with the residents on a case-by-case basis. In this photo, some residents have already left apartments vacant, while others still remain in their homes wishing to better their compensation package. The gentrification of the neighbourhood is guaranteed since high prices will force most, if not all, former residents to move out of the community.


Miguel Elosua

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

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Seeking just compensation for collective-owned land expropriation in China

Xian Zhang (2013), Seeking just compensation for collective-owned land expropriation in China, Full text of the article available at SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2331225


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.

If the unjust compensation continues, the peasants’ situation would be worse. Therefore, I make three proposals to reshape the compensation system for expropriating collective-owned land. First, abandon the original purpose and administrative pricing in article 47 of Land Administration Law. The compensation should be based on fair market value. The land-transferring fees could represent the fair market value of ownership of collective-owned land. And the value of individual peasant’s improvements, green crops, and land use right could be assessed by independent appraisers. Second, I design a new distribution mechanism according to the proposed amendment of the Land Administration Law and new compensation standad. Third, there is a need to define public use specially for expropriating collective-owned land. The definition should be narrower than the one in the Regulation on the Expropriation of Buildings on State-owned Land and Compensation. And certain amendment to the definition is needed.


Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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New university cities

Yunnan University New Campus, Elosua Miguel

Chenggong University City is situated in Chenggong district, Luoyang town (chenggong qu luoyang zhen – 呈贡区洛羊镇), 24 kilometres from the city proper. It covers an area of 43 square kilometres, almost half the size of Kunming in 2007, which gives an idea of the significance of the project. The plan was approved in 2003 as part of the development of the new East of Kunming city. Ideally, it will attract not only students from Yunnan province, as well as other provinces in China, but also students from abroad, notably from South Asia. Once the project is finished, the new University City will have the capacity to host more than 150 thousand students. The total investment for the project is estimated at 10 billion RMB (1.6 billion USD). Construction work lasted six years, from 2004 to 2010. Seven universities have already moved to the new campus town.

University towns have been proliferating all over the country since the turn of the new century. They are part of a central government plan, launched in 2000, which calls for 50 new university towns to be built in city suburbs. The reasons for this initiative may seem obvious: along with the dramatic increase in the number of students pursuing higher studies, land prices within city centres have soared. This makes it difficult for universities to expand their facilities and capacities. At the same time, selling off old campuses brings sizable capital gains that allow for the acquisition of large terrains in the outskirts of urbanizing cities. (Sometimes it is the government who expropriates the old campus, and the academic institution gets land in the new campus town as a part of the compensation). There is intense competition between universities to attract students, and the curricula have expanded dramatically. Almost every university now offers a degree in business management (including the lucrative MBA). Consequently, capacity has become paramount.

Some of the universities that have moved into new campus cities, such as Yunnan University, are included in Project 211 (the name stands for 21st century, top 100 universities). The aim of the project is to promote the development and reputation of the Chinese higher education system. Both national and local governments are involved, allocating large amounts of funding to different purposes, such as updating installations. There is also the more selective Project 985, which originally included only nine universities (the so-called C9 League), but was enlarged later to thirty-nine, none of them in Yunnan province.

In order to finance its ambitious new campus, Yunnan University has also sold most of the old campuses that were located in downtown Kunming. The only campus that remains is protected as a heritage site. The university was founded in 1923, and was the oldest in West China. It sits in an unmatched location facing Green Lake Park (cuihu gongyuan – 翠湖公园), and is surrounded by venerable ginkgo trees and teeming flora.

Yunnan University

The new University City has been built on arable land, something that some locals frown upon since, allegedly, the project was to include the use of a large area of wasteland.1 Considering the size of the area that is now occupied by the new campuses, it is easy to imagine the enormous expropriation procedures that have been carried out. (Before the University City was built, the area was occupied by five villages). The central government enhanced the plan to build university towns with a number of favourable policies that would help to overcome hurdles such as expropriation procedures or financing. Expropriated farmers remain the biggest issue to be dealt with. Once farmers are dispossessed of their land, they lose their livelihood. The compensation may allow them to buy a new house, but it won’t provide them with a new job. The lack of higher education is a major impediment. A number of training programs are usually implemented to facilitate job reinsertion for farmers (as guardians or gardeners in many cases). According to a survey carried out in 2011, 2) young farmers were optimistic about the construction of the campus city and were willing to join training programs. However, the older ones found it difficult to join these programs and expressed concern about their future. The provision of old age protection schemes would solve this problem, but only partly. When farmers no longer have their land, the dignity of having an occupation is difficult to make up for.

The local government has financed the new University City’s urbanisation work. A number of buses and a new subway line connect the new university town with Kunming.   A large area of the expropriated land will eventually be used to build commercial and residential spaces.  Currently, a number of local vendors, perhaps former farmers, have set up informal stalls to cater to the University City’s new residents.  This is a significant niche market, as the area still lacks many services to satisfy the needs of its new inhabitants.  (The above-mentioned study proposes the implementation of soft financing policies for former farmers willing to become entrepreneurs.)  The name of the new town very precisely describes who these new residents are, at least for the moment: university students.  Streets are almost empty, which is a common feature in many new cities that are urbanised before the need arises. As one Chinese scholar pointed out, “there is more urbanised land than people in China.”  In the case of the new university towns, students seem to have been sent out like advanced parties to settle new territory, even before a number of basic services have been provided for.  Perhaps this is the best way: after all, with classes to attend and individual studying to do, students hardly have time to venture outside the campus in any case.


  1. chenggong daxue cheng – 呈贡大学城 http://baike.baidu.com/view/1365972.htm Last retrieved on April 18, 2013. []
  2. miao mingming, zhouyunlong, “daxue cheng” jianshe dui zhoubian nongmin yingxiang diaocha——yi kunming chenggong “daxue cheng” weili – 缪明明, 周云龙, “大学城”建设对周边农民影响调查——以昆明呈贡”大学城”为例. Industrial & Science Tribune, 2011, 10 (1 []

Miguel Elosua

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

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