Land Tenure Journal, No 2 (2012)

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Rethinking China’s land tenure reform: the emergence of farmers’ land shareholding cooperatives

Yongjun Zhao


Land tenure reform is crucial to China's rural development and economic transformation. Recent land policy has emphasized experimentation with land shareholding cooperatives. The aim has been to address the constraints on enforcement of farmers' land rights in the context of scaled agricultural production and the marketing of rural land. Enforcement of these rights is seen as essential to tackling land fragmentation for the realization of coherent and sustainable urban-rural economic balance. However, many of the institutions involved have not strengthened tenure security, instead serving the interests of village leaders, businesses and local states, rather than the farmers. This paper examines the political economy of these developments and local practices, and discusses the links between land tenure systems and village governance. It also links the key debates regarding both individual and collective land tenure reform. The paper recommends the design of more inclusive institutions that will address issues such as incentives for village shareholders, participation in land management and village governance processes.

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