The purpose of this paper is to analyze the structure and changes of China’s land system. To achieve this aim, the paper is divided into four parts. The first part gives a brief introduction to the structural characteristics of the Chinese land institutional arrangements; the second part analyzes the reform process of the land system in the past 40 years and its path of change; the third part engages the discussion about the historic contribution made by the land institutional change to rapid economic growth and structural changes; and the final part is conclusion and some policy implications.
After 40 years of reforms and opening up, China has not only created a growth miracle unparalleled for any major country in human history, but also transformed itself from a rural to an urban society. Behind this great transformation is a systemic reform in land institutions. Rural land institutions went from collectively owned to household responsibility system, thereby protecting farmers’ land rights. This process resulted in long-term sustainable growth in China’s agriculture, a massive rural-urban migration and a historical agricultural transformation. The conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses and the introduction of market mechanisms made land a policy tool in driving high economic growth, industrialization and urbanization.
Research shows that the role of land and its relationship with the economy will inevitably change as China’s economy enters a new stage of medium-to-high speed growth. With economic restructuring, low-cost industrial land will be less effective. Urbanization is also shifting from rapid expansion to endogenous growth so that returns on land capitalization will decrease and risks will increase. Therefore, China must abandon land-dependent growth model through deepening land reforms and adapt a new pattern of economic development.
This paper gives a brief introduction to the structural characteristics of the Chinese land institutional arrangements, analyzes the reform process of the land system in the past 40 years and its path of change, and evaluates the historic contribution made by the land institutional change to rapid economic growth and structural changes.
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