Land Expropriation in China

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Land Ownership and Rural Land Expropriation in the People’s Republic of China

PRC’s Land Ownership system is inspired in the communist public-owned-property principle. It is therefore different from the land system we know in the west. This land system obviously affects the way administrative expropriation of land takes place in the country. The administration and expropriation of rural land has created numerous violent conflicts in Chinese rural areas in the last years. Chinese peasants who have been expropriated consider that they are being abused and their rights compulsory taken away for the benefits of private companies and enterprises. Not only this, but they are receiving what they consider insufficient money for their land. This essay will try to explain how the land system in PRC is regulated and underline its main differences with the systems in liberal democracies. Once done this, we will explain how the expropriation of the rural land is done and explain the unconformity of peasants and the possible ways in which this could be changed. The main problems around rural land expropriation are the misuse of public interest when expropriating, and the compensation system. The former happens by not always attending to the general wellbeing as a purpose for the expropriation. It will be argued that the fact that the only way to convert farming land into constructing land is the expropriation procedure is what creates this problem. The compensation system will be explained, and it will be shown that the farmers receive only a small fraction of what the land use rights are after sold by. We will demonstrate that the reason for this is the value of land by the original purpose system and not the market price.

1. Land Ownership and basic features of expropriation

Land ownership in the PRC is different from land ownership in liberal countries, where private individuals primarily own the land. In the PRC, ownership is public and it was adopted in the form of state ownership and collective ownership. Article 10 of the PRC Constitution defines the framework of land ownership in China: “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 the collectives.”

State ownership of land is exercised by the State Council through land administrative agencies established at county, province, and state levels that manage the land in each jurisdiction. Although the state retains the ownership, land use rights to urban land may be granted to private individuals or entities that pay for it. They have specific terms ranging from 40 to 70 years depending on the intended use. Once this rights are acquired, the grantee enjoys a broad range of land rights, including assignment, lease, or mortgage of such use rights for the remaining term. Upon expiration, land use rights together with structures and other fixtures on the land are acquired by the State without compensation.

In the rural areas, there are two levels of collectives: administrative-village collectives and villager-group collectives. An administrative village consists of more than two villager groups. A villager committee represents the administrative-village collective responsible for “managing land and other assets that belong to the village collective,” while the villager-group collective is represented by the head of the villager group.

Land expropriation is an activity carried on by the state that consists in the compulsory transfer of land ownership to itself. Therefore, as the only land that is not already of the state is the collective ownership land (the rural land), expropriation in China means the compulsory transfer from this type of land to state-owned land. Instead of taking ownership rights from private parties, as is the case in liberal developed...
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