Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

The Evolution of Relational Property Rights: A Case of Chinese Rural Land Reform

29 Pages Posted: 16 May 2015 Last revised: 22 Jun 2015

Shitong Qiao

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law

Frank K. Upham

New York University School of Law

Date Written: May 14, 2015

Abstract

The most notable, or at least the most noted, form of property evolution has been the transfer of exclusive rights from collectives to individuals and vice versa, such as the farm collectivization in Soviet Union and the establishment of the People’s Communes in Mao’s China and their reversals. Such radical moments, however, constitute only a small part of history. For the most part, property rights evolve quietly and incrementally, which is hard to explain if we take exclusive rights as the core of property, or, to put it more generally, if we are focusing solely on the question of who owns the things. To describe the evolution of property rights in China, we employ the concept of relational property. It is a concept that is heavily influenced by Joseph William Singer’s “social relations model” and Ian Macneil’s “relational contract” and, in particular, their emphasis on the determinative role of social relations in the construction of property and contract rights. The bundle of sticks metaphor is at the heart of relational property because it recognizes that property rights can be, and often are, disaggregated as they adapt to changing social, economic, and technological demands. As we show in the context of the reform of Chinese rural land, the combination of the metaphor of separable interests — the sticks in the bundle — and the dependence of property interests on social relationships can explain the evolution of property rights more accurately than a perspective that stresses a single central meaning of property.

Keywords: Relational Property, Bundle of Sticks, Right to Exclude, Chinese Rural Land Reform

JEL Classification: K11, Q15, D23, K42, P20, P32, N55, A14

Suggested Citation

Qiao, Shitong and Upham, Frank K., The Evolution of Relational Property Rights: A Case of Chinese Rural Land Reform (May 14, 2015). Iowa Law Review, Vol. 100, 2015, Forthcoming; University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2015/016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2606291 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2606291

Shitong Qiao (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Law ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
China

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.hku.hk/faculty/staff/shitong_qiao.php

Frank K. Upham

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Paper statistics

Downloads
244
Rank
106,710
Abstract Views
1,049