Land expropriation, protest, and impunity in rural China

Bo Zhao

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Conflicts over rural land expropriation, which have intensified over the
past decade in China, pose a significant threat to the country’s social stability and the sustainability of its economic development. This article argues that such conflicts are inevitable under China’s current political and legal system. After a brief introduction of the present situation in China and an overview of China’s land regime, the article first analyzes reasons for the escalation of land conflicts, including the vague definition of public interest, the inadequate compensation, and the ambiguous nature of collective land ownership. It then argues that even the few existing rights of rural peasants under the present land regime are not adequately protected due to China’s poor law enforcement. The article further elucidates that impunity with regard to illegal land grabbing is common in China for a variety of reasons that all have roots in the Communist Party’s monopoly over Chinese society. With no fundamental reform to China’s party politics, the article concludes, there will be no effective measure to prevent further conflicts over land in the near future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-105
Number of pages8
JournalFocaal: Tijdschrift voor Antropologie = Focaal: European journal of anthropology
Issue number54
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • land expropriation
  • rule of law
  • userright
  • protest


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