Clashing over property rights in China

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The current edition of the Economist describes how recent bloody clashes between peasants and thugs highlight the problems with China’s ambiguous property right laws and the corruption that they fuel:

“While land disputes are common in any fast-developing economy, they are aggravated in China by the lack of clarity over property rights. In theory, rural land is “collectively owned”. But it is uncertain whether this means by the villagers themselves or whether township governments, which each control several villages, exercise these collective rights on behalf of the peasants. Peasants have renewable land-use contracts valid for 30 years, but they cannot sell them… The party's refusal to allow private land ownership has eased the takeover of rural land for industrial use, urban expansion or the construction of transport infrastructure. But it has also created vast opportunities for corruption. Rural officials often pocket much of the money paid by developers as compensation for the land-lorn peasants, or make great profits by taking over land at little or no cost and selling it at market prices.”

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