Rural Land Rights in China: Evolution and Case Studies*
Liu Shouying (刘守英), Xiong Xuefeng (熊雪锋) and Long Tingyu (龙婷玉)
School of Economics, Renmin University of China (RUC), Beijing, China
Abstract: Constant divisions of rural land rights and contract renegotiations are the hallmark of China’s collective ownership system. Rural land ownership, property and operation systems in China have experienced four stages of evolution: (i) The People’s Communes, which served administrative and economic functions, exercised integrated collective land ownership, property, and operation rights. (ii) Under the system of “threetier ownership with production teams as basic accounting units,” production teams exercised the ownership right over land plots with greater autonomy and were responsible for organizing farm work. (iii) The household contract system has entitled farmers to claim surplus products and turned farm households into the basic unit of agricultural production.Subsequently, the reform of collective ownership has further enhanced farmers’ contract rights and separated their operation rights from contract rights. The separation of rural land ownership, contract and operation rights marks a top-down design of the structure of China’s rural land rights after the collective ownership system and the reform of household contract system. By recognizing separate contract and operation rights without changing collective ownership, the separation aims to protect rural land contract and operation rights in accordance with the law. As in the four case studies, Chongzhou, Songjiang, Meitan and Liupanshui have experienced a restructuring of collective ownership, contract and operation rights. Their experience foretells complexities in the future evolution of rural land rights in China.
Keywords: collective ownership, land rights, division of land rights, institutional evolution
JEL Classification Codes: P21, P25, P26, Q15, R52
DOI: 1 0.19602/j .chinaeconomist.2020.03.08