Every year, local governments appropriate land from 4 million rural Chinese.
Residents of Wukan rally against land grabs and other forms of corruption / Reuters
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A few days ago, the Global Times posted a brief opinion piece that questioned the West's preoccupation with the Wukan village uprising last year and concluded: "China cannot be understood by focusing on the small details, something Western media would do well to appreciate."
Despite this sage advice, I've always liked details and found myself captivated by a just-released survey of 1,791 Chinese farming households across 17 provinces. Conducted by Landesa Rural Development Institute, Renmin University, and Michigan State University, the survey explored issues surrounding rural land use and retention. The survey is especially valuable because it has been conducted five times since 1999, thereby providing a sense for whether conditions have been improving or worsening over time.
Some of the most striking findings:
- There has been a steady increase since 2005 in the number of "land takings" or compulsory state acquisitions, and about 43 percent of the villages surveyed have been subjected to such land takings over the past decade.
- The mean compensation that the local government paid to the farmers was approximately $17, 850 per acre. When it was resold by local authorities, mostly to commercial property developers, the mean price was $740,000 per acre.
- When farmers are relocated or "urbanized," only a bit more than twenty percent gained an urban hukou or registration; 13.9 percent received urban social security coverage; 9.4 percent received medical insurance; and only 21.4 percent had access to schools for their children.
- Every year, local governments appropriate land from 4 million rural Chinese.