China will increase farmers' property rights

By Liu Qiang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 14, 2013
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China has vowed to give farmers more property rights [Xinhua photo]

China has vowed to give farmers more property rights [Xinhua photo]

China will push forward land reform, give farmers more property rights, and establish a unified land market for urban and rural construction, according to the communiqué of the Third Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee, which closed on Tuesday.

The new reform blueprint called for greater rights for farmers and vowed to "promote equal exchanges of urban-rural elements and balanced allocation of public resources."

There are essentially two kinds of land ownership in China, state ownership and collective ownership. Rural land, or housing land and the household contract farmland, is collectively owned. Farmers are part of the collective community and have property rights to their land, but with restrictions.

According to Article 152 of China's Real Right Law, housing land holders are entitled to possess and use collectively-owned land to build houses and related facilities. In 2002, the Law on Land Contracts in Rural Areas of China was promulgated for the purpose of granting farmers long-term and guaranteed land-use rights and safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the parties to land contracts in rural areas. According to Article 20 of the Law, the term of contract for arable land is 30 years.

According to Pan Jiahua, director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, there are ambiguities in farmers' property rights to rural land in Chinese law. The 30-year contract term doesn't mean farmers enjoy full property rights, for example the right of possession or transfer. The calls for "more property rights" are an attempt to allow farmers to transfer their land freely in the market. Farmers will benefit from the reform as land is the means of production for them.

Wang Guogang, director of the Institute of Finance and Banking, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that it was an extremely complex task to push forward land reform and give farmers more property rights.

Chinese farmers, though they are entitled to possess and use land, do not have full ownership. It is impossible for Chinese farmers to mortgage their land for loans. Therefore, the top priority is to clarify who the true holder of the rural land rights is.

Farmers' rights over their land have been strictly prescribed. For example, household contract farmland is only for farming, but when a family moves to a city to work, they are not allowed to lease their farmland to others. It is important to clarify what farmers can do with their land.

Wang said that the concept of a "farmer" needs to change. Does a "farmer" lose this identity if he migrates to a city to work? Should he reserve his rights as a farmer in case of migration? Age should also be factored in when identifying a farmer.

Land reform may not happen smoothly, as local governments rely on their power to take and sell land to increase their revenue.

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