New Implications of Land Commodification in China’s Local Development

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: New Implications of Land Commodification in China’s Local Development
Stream: Political Sciences
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Timna Michlmayr, University of Vienna, Austria (organizer, presenter, chair)
Francesco Zaratin, University of Vienna, Austria (presenter)
Zeng Yu, Peking University, China (presenter)
Li Jie, University of Vienna, Austria (presenter)
Jiwei Qian, National University of Singapore, Singapore (discussant)


Land's public ownership is one of CCP's socialist ideological strongholds in an otherwise vigorous embrace of the market. Nevertheless, China has developed a system whereby although this principle is maintained, land can be marketed and mortgaged. State and non-state actors have largely taken advantage from land as an economic and financial asset, which have thus become a key driver of economic growth and a major generator of incomes.
What implications do land's financial utilization and commodification bring along? This panel attempts to answer this question focusing on the realms of rural development, urban governance and local political-economic management. It explores the practices, functions and by-products of land financialization during the past decade.
Francesco Zaratin's paper takes up the recent use of land transfer-based rural development by a "rural reconstruction" company and shows its strained position between government policies and peasants' empowerment. Timna Michlmayr's paper reveals that the importance of 'land finance' in the management of subnational government debts has grown as a response to rising debt risks. Zeng and his colleagues find that homeowners have enjoyed greater autonomy in community affairs as a result of the local state's response to social conflicts generated by land-based urbanization.
Applying mixed methods ranging from qualitative documentary analysis to quantitative deep learning techniques, the contributions converge in highlighting the determinant role local actors in urban and rural settings play both as subjects and objects in China's 'land finance'.