Chinese central government to take back leased rural land – Radio Free Asia
The ruling Communist Party of China (CCP) to strengthen central control over the country’s land, putting in place a program allowing farmers to be bought out of family responsibility leases put in place in the post-Mao era Zedong and demanding the proceeds from the sale of land to be paid into the central administration coffers.
Under the leadership of CPC Secretary General Xi Jinping, the government intends to “deepen rural reforms” by launching pilot programs where rural residents who move to urban areas can have their jobs terminated. contracts to cultivate land at home.
Under a policy first unveiled in Central Policy Paper No. 1 in 2016, local governments in pilot areas are required to “support and guide farmers to transfer [land] rights according to law and with compensation, ”the agriculture ministry said in an August 27 directive posted on its website.
“Some counties, cities and districts of Shanghai, Shandong, Ningxia, Hubei and other provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities [are being authorized] to carry out pilot projects for the withdrawal of rural land under contract ”, indicates the directive.
“Whether the pilot experience in these areas can be scaled up requires extensive research,” he said.
Jiangsu-based commentator Zhang Jianping said the “family responsibility” system, which typically signed 30-year leases with farming families, was introduced by late Supreme Leader Deng Xiaoping in 1978 to allow farmers to sell their surplus produce in local markets for a profit.
He said that the agriculture ministry’s insistence that the return of land to state hands would be “voluntary” was unlikely to be implemented in reality.
“This insistence that it will be voluntary (…) is very frightening,” Zhang told RFA. “No one in China today believes that our so-called voluntary vaccination program is truly voluntary. “
He said the only way to solve the problem of lack of investment in rural areas was to allow full land ownership. Under the CCP, all land ultimately belongs to the state, which sells leases for specified users to buyers of land.
But Beijing-based independent commentator Zha Jianguo said the policy was also in line with government support for increased urbanization of the rural population.
“Urbanization continues to accelerate and people in rural areas are more and more likely to move to cities now, especially young people,” Zha told RFA. “They are less and less willing to return to rural areas to work the land.”
“There is a growing bank of fallow and abandoned land in rural areas, which means that land resources are not being used to the maximum,” he said.
But he said the key to the success of the program would be whether farmers really had a choice and whether they were compensated.
“The key, of course, lies in the mechanism used to transfer the land,” Zha said. “The bottom line is whether it’s voluntary and whether it’s paid.”
“Whether or not people get compensation can vary from place to place.”
The move comes after the finance ministry announced in June 2021 that the proceeds from land sales at the local level would now be collected by national tax offices, rather than the land and resources offices of local governments.
Figures released for 2020 by the Ministry of Finance showed that the sale of land leases generated 8.4 trillion yuan for local governments, out of a total income of 10,000 billion yuan for local governments nationwide.
Central government control
The change will deprive local governments of a lucrative source of revenue and strengthen central government control over what they can do, commentators told RFA at the time.
An academic who gave only the last name Zhang said the move was part of a movement to nationalize large swathes of the economy, including private companies.
A Nanjing business owner, who only gave the last name Zhou, said Xi had always viewed collecting local government revenue as a political goal since taking office.
“After taking office, Xi Jinping made his thoughts very clear on this matter. He always wanted to transfer local tax revenues to central government control,” Zhou said.
She said local governments had long taken a huge share of any wealth generated by the sale of land or inbound investment. “For example, if a developer invests in an industrial park, then he has to repay a certain proportion of money to the local government,” she said.
Beijing-based commentator Ji Feng said local governments would find other ways to generate revenue.
“In the future, they may have to do historic urban reconstruction projects, which means that more and more demolitions will take place,” Ji said.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.