By Gou Xinyu, Yang Yang
Published: 2008-01-22

Cai Jiming: China Must Reform Rural Land Rights
From News, page 12, issue no. 350, Jan. 14th 2008
Translated by Liu Peng
Original article:

In the tranquil and secluded Xinzhai building at Tsinghua University, professor Cai Jiming prepares a rural land reform suggestion package for this years meeting of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Cai says that the privatization of rural land will not only smooth over China's modernization process, but will also solve corruption and inefficiency in the way the government acquires land, and lastly, ease the mediation of disputes over "minor property rights". Minor property rights refer to a kind of land rights that can be obtained by rural Chinese. Current law states that the property owned in this way cannot be sold to urban residents.

Aside from his role as a professor, Cai Jiming is the director of the China Association for Promoting Democracy, head of its central economic committee, and a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The recent cancellation of the Labor Day vacation was also put forward by Cai’s research team.

The Economic Observer: Many forces were behind the development of “minor property rights” law. Opposition to it claims to want to protect arable land. Are there actually any statistics about how much arable land has been used by minor property rights houses?

Cai Jiming: I have yet to see any data, and I am sure that there is illegal use of arable land, but it’s definitely far less than the government’s misuse of land. And compared to arable land misuse occurring at the national level, minor property rights misuse is just a drop in the bucket. It is reported that local governments occupy 80 percent of the total illegal land use cases.

The Economic Observer: Why does arable land expropriation data show rapid increases around 2003? Does it have anything to do with the recent economic boom?

Cai Jiming: To a great extent, the recent decade of economic growth, especially increases in local government’s financial revenues, has been caused by the real estate industry. Local government spent little money to expropriate arable land and went on to sell it to domestic and foreign investors at much higher prices. In turn, the governments then use the land transfer income to invest in large-scale infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, the investors mortgage their land and buildings to the bank to make even more investments. As a result, the real estate industry is growing stronger and stronger, and more and more arable land becomes expropriated in the process.

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