Legal and Institutional Analysis of Land Expropriation in China

28 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2013 Last revised: 6 Feb 2017

Date Written: October 14, 2013


China has a bifurcated land system, with clear distinctions between urban and rural land use rights. While state-owned land in urban areas has become commercially transferable, rural land cannot be transferred. This discrepancy has been exploited by property developers, investors, village heads and local governments, which has caused wide-spread, large-scale malpractice in relation to expropriation of land. Thus, conflict over expropriation of land has been, and continues to be, a simmering hotpot of social unrest in China. It has been claimed that land disputes over expropriation is one of the most common ways of provoking grassroots resistance and undermining public confidence in the government. How should the grievances suffered by the rural farmers be redressed, and how should the Chinese government draw the fine line between economic development and individual property rights? In order to answer these questions, this paper addresses the root causes of land disputes both from a legal perspective, evaluating the most recent statutory changes, and from the policy perspective, analyzing the national strategy of integrating urban and rural areas (城乡一体化), including the recent local experiments on transforming the inalienability of rural land use rights.

Suggested Citation

Chen, Lei, Legal and Institutional Analysis of Land Expropriation in China (October 14, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Lei Chen (Contact Author)

Durham Law School ( email )

Palatine Centre
South Road
Durham, DH1 3LE
United Kingdom

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