China's agrarian reform and the privatization of land: A contrarian view
Many reporters and scholars outside China advocate the privatization of land ownership in China as a necessary step for the transformation of China's agriculture system into a modern, large-scale, market-oriented and technology-intensive one. Chinese scholars advocating land privatization, for their part, typically argue that land privatization would better protect farmers’ rights and interests. We present a contrarian view to these calls for land privatization. Under China's current system of collective land ownership and individualized land use rights, agriculture has modernized rapidly in China in a way that has avoided privatization's many downsides. Land privatization, by contrast, would only exacerbate class inequality and social tension in rural China and further weaken farmers’ positions in dealing with more powerful actors. Through analyzing six dimensions of this issue—increasing investment in land and agricultural productivity, promoting scaled-up modern agriculture, protecting farmers’ land rights and preventing land grabs, enhancing rural livelihoods, and facilitating rural migrants’ integration into cities—we maintain that strengthening the current system is superior to privatizing rural land.