Rural land reform and involuntary resettlement in China — ASN Events

Rural land reform and involuntary resettlement in China (12803)

Brooke Wilmsen 1
  1. La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

China’s involuntary resettlement policies (Land Administration Law and large and medium hydropower regulations – currently under review) were crafted at a time when China was opening up.  These laws and regulations have been updated and improved in response to what Wang et al. (2013) term “historical epochs”.   Challenged by China’s current position in the global political economy, increasing capitalist relations of production in rural areas (Webber 2012) and unprecedented rural to urban migration, at the 18th CCP Central Committee in November 2013, reforms to the rural land tenure system were announced.  The Communiqué emphasised deepening reforms with a number of measures aimed at expanding the role of the market economy particularly into the countryside.  Many of the commitments made will also have implications for land acquisition, forced displacement and involuntary resettlement in rural China, in particular, the endowment of greater property rights to farmers, the narrowed scope of land expropriation and standardised procedures for land appropriation.  In addition, there is speculation that a major shakeup to rural resettlement practice in China is on its way.  The central government considers ‘land for land’ no longer possible or particularly relevant to farmers caught up in development-forced displacement.  It is deliberating a more formalised commitment to moving rural people off the land and into urban areas.  This could be the basis for all future rural resettlement. However, it is cautious and rightly so.  The proposed reforms could transform China’s countryside and raise a number of questions for its farmers and their mobility both forced and free.  In particular : (1)Will these reforms simply free up more land for development without requiring complex resettlement planning and costly compensation?  (2) Does this take away the rights of farmers in China rather than safeguard them?

  1. Wang, Pu., Wolf Steven, A., Lassoie, J.P. and Dong Shuikui, 2013, Compensation policy for displacement caused by dam construction in China: An institutional analysis. Geoforum, 48(1): 1-9.
  2. Webber, M. 2012, Making Capitalism in Rural China, Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, Cheltenham.