More Than 80% of Chinese Farmers Unclear Who Owns Rural Land

Authors: Wang Su and Li Rongde
Posted on: Caixin Global, December 15th, 2016



More than four-fifths of Chinese farmers are unclear who owns rural land, according to a survey conducted by the Renmin University of China in Beijing.
The survey, which sampled 1,870 rural households across 17 Chinese provinces and regions between June and September, shows that nearly 40% of respondents thought their land was state-owned or owned by township governments.
Nearly one-third of respondents said that farmers owned the land they farmed and 8.5% said they had no idea, according to the survey released Wednesday.
Awareness among the younger generation is even lower with 45.7% of those under the age of 30 saying that the state owns rural land compared with 35.8% among those over the age of 50, according to the survey.
In contrast to land in urban areas, which is exclusively owned by the state, rural land is “collectively” owned by farmers, under Chinese law, with township governments and village committees acting as caretakers.
Farmers are allowed to lease rural land for farming under a contractual land system, and they are also entitled to plots to build their own homes.
In addition, a portion of rural land is designated for development, both for commercial use such as factory construction and for non-commercial use including government office development.
The complicated land system in China’s rural areas has left farmers open to manipulation at the hands of unscrupulous officials, which has resulted in a rising number of disputes, often deadly, over the past 10 years amid a national housing boom.
Eight people in Jinning county in the southwestern province of Yunnan were killed in a confrontation between villagers and workers hired by a local developer and a sub-contracted construction company over disputes linked to land acquisition in October 2014.
One of the assailants was sentenced to death in February, two received suspended death sentences and another 18 received jail terms ranging from four years to life.
Some 60% of cases of social unrest in China are linked to land disputes and there are about four million disputes each year as a result of illicit land grabs, according to Liu Shouying, an expert on urban-rural development.
Some 47% of those surveyed said they were not happy with the compensation they received in government-brokered land deals in rural areas, according to the Renmin University survey.
Rural land is increasingly at risk of misuse amid a government drive for greater urbanization, according to Ye Jianping, director of Renmin University’s Research Center for Land Policy who led the survey.


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