State-Led Urbanization in China: Skyscrapers, Land Revenue, and Concentrated Villagers’ Living


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When: May 17 2013 - 2:00pm until May 17 2013 - 3:30pm
Where: East-West Center in Washington: 1819 L St. NW, Suite 600. Washington, DC. 22202

State-Led Urbanization in China: Skyscrapers, Land Revenue, and Concentrated Villagers’ Living

An Asia-Pacific Political Economy Seminar Featuring:

Dr. Lynette H. Ong

Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and Asian Institute, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Dr. Ong is an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto. Her research into the push for urbanization by China's local governments revealed a lucrative revenue source for some and loss of livelihood for others.

Increasingly, municipal and local governments across China are undertaking a policy called “concentrated villagers’ living,” or removing villagers from their farmland and into apartment blocks. In her off-the-record talk at the East-West Center in Washington, Dr. Lynette Ong examined the rationale behind the local government’s push for urbanization, and the political-economic and social implications of the “concentrated villagers’ living” policy. She described how Chinese law prevents farmers from selling land to developers directly, leading local governments to find profit in moving people off the land and into apartments.

After relocation to apartment blocks, villagers complain that their incomes have fallen and their expenditures have risen. However, despite having ceded rights to the use of their farmland to the government, they often have not gained access to state-provided social welfare to which urban residents are entitled. Receiving compensation that is inadequate to sustain them, displaced or landless peasants are emerging as a distinctly disadvantaged societal group deprived of the livelihood and long-term security of either farmland or social welfare.

Furthermore, while the central government has favored more sustainable policies of urbanization, the lure of quick gain has led to increased reliance by these local governments on land-leasing revenue, particularly to finance of urban infrastructure. If the real estate bubble pops, Dr. Ong warns, financial and social crises will follow.

Dr. Lynette H. Ong is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Asian Institute at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Prosper of Perish: Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China (Cornell University Press, 2012). Her publications have appeared in Comparative Politics, International Political Science Review, China Quarterly, Pacific Affairs, Journal of East Asian Studies, Asian Survey, Foreign Affairs, and Far Eastern Economic Review, among others.

Primary Contact Info:
Name: Grace Ruch
Phone: 202-327-9762