Working Paper 40

The Politics of Rural Land Use Planning in China

Frank N. Pieke

Abteilung ‚Resilienz und Transformation in Eurasien’

Jahr der Veröffentlichung


Working Paper 40

In the reform period, conflict over the fruits of the land has increasingly been superseded by conflict over the land itself. Many of the key challenges that currently confront China, such as rapid urbanization and industrialization, food self-sufficiency, environmental degradation, or the balance of power between local and central governments, crucially revolve around the issue of land rights and land use. In many rural areas land is the focal point of often intense conflict between farmers and local government. This paper focuses on one aspect of land policy in China, the allocation of land for specific purposes in the integrated land use plans that have come into effect across China since 1998. Because of the recent nature of the prominence of rural land use plans, they have been largely ignored in discussions on rural development and agriculture. This paper consists of two different parts. Part one presents an analysis of the development of policies on national land use planning since the promulgation of the first Land Law in 1986. The second part of the paper draws on fieldwork data collected in Taicang municipality/county, southern Jiangsu in early 2001 in order to compare the national picture with the role that land has played in policies and practices of economic development there at the county, township and village levels. The paper concludes that uniform national land use policies do not work. Proscribing land use for non-agricultural purposes is arguably vital as a form of social welfare to guarantee the livelihood of the rural population in poorer areas that rely mainly on subsistence agriculture, but hamstrings the development of highly commercialized areas such as Taicang.

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