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Power, capital, and the poverty of farmers’ land rights in China

Hong, Zhaohui, Sun, Yi
Land use policy 2020 v.92 pp. 104471
capital, economic theory, farmers, farmers' rights, issues and policy, land ownership, land rights, politics, poverty, property rights, rural areas, rural economics, wastes, China
This article is intended to conduct a three-dimensional examination of China’s rural land rights and the complex dynamic among political power, economic capital, and farmers’ rights during the past seventy years. First, the study takes a close look at the historical changes in the nature, scope, and ownership of land property in rural China during four significant time periods from 1949 to 2019. Second, it uses Ronald Coase’s theory on property rights in dissecting the four paradoxes and dilemmas in China’s rural land ownership, including the extent of clarity and stability of land property rights, the “three rights system” (the rights to ownership, contracting and operation of land) and three stagnations in defining and exercising such three rights, the simultaneous shortage and waste of land resources, as well as the restrictions on land transactions and the requirement to protect collective property. With examples derived from selected evidence, the article documents how both political power and economic capital have worked together to deprive farmers’ land rights. It concludes with a critical analysis of the current status of China’s rural economy, the problem of applying Western economic theories to China’s reality, as well as the theoretical definition, legal protection and policy parameters of land property rights in China.