According to Chinese law, the state owns the land in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Chongqing. In the countryside, land is owned by “collectives.” There is no rural private property.
In October 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping said his government was drawing up a “master plan” for more than just reform. He said he was aiming for, quote, “profound revolution.” The revolution is private ownership-the right to own land in the countryside, and sell it.
In the 1990s, China permitted private property in cities. That created wealth for city dwellers and became a colossal engine of economic growth. Rural Chinese want the same thing, but the land is still owned by collectives and the officials who oversee the collective can seize property at will and sell it off-displacing the people who live on it.
So more than a quarter billion Chinese migrated to cities, leaving farmland uncultivated. China grew concerned about its ability to feed its people.
China’s reform plan aims to give property rights to 650 million rural Chinese-nearly half the country’s population. Beijing hasn’t released specifics yet. In February, President Xi compared China’s upcoming land reforms to a, quote: “The first step for a long march.”
The plan is to give rural Chinese so-called “land-use certificates”-the equivalent of a leasehold that will enable them to transfer or mortgage their land-use rights or turn them into shares in large-scale farming entities. Beijing aims to get this done in the next five years.
Land reform was a key topic during the 12th National People’s Congress–particularly in rural development. Liu Yang explored how those policies are benefiting local communities in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.