China Aviation Law
30Nov/10Off

China’s Agricultural Land Use Policy: The growing tension between food security and economic growth.

This is the first draft of my Seattle Journal Of Environmental Law comment. While I have tried to stay true to the evidence, it is still a working paper. I'd appreciate any comments.

Casey DuBose

China's New Rice Bowl

Solving the problem of feeding around one billion people must be continually designated as a high priority in running the country well and maintaining peace.” State Council, 2009.

In 2007, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) capped 30 years of economic liberalization with a revolutionary land law. This law, the Property Law of the People’s Republic of China, granted the private acquisition of land-use to both foreign and domestic private parties. Starting in 2008, agricultural collectives, which traditionally had limited ability to individually transfer their land use from agricultural to urban or industrial, began to contract their rights to non-agricultural developer, under a similarly revolutionary policy statement - Decision on Certain Issues Concerning the Advancement of Rural Reform and Development. These laws had the aim to help flatten the economic disparity between the increasing rich urban population and the increasingly marginalized peasant agricultural class. Their goal was to spur the development of modern agriculture and promote the construction of a “new socialist countryside.”

Unfortunately, the last 30 years of economic growth has taken a hard environmental and social toll on that countryside. Spurred by a great flood of cheap, migratory labor leaving the agricultural areas, and years of industrial development, agricultural land has been converted to residential, commercial and industrial land at an unprecedented rate.

This conversion, which has been accomplished through both legal and illegal means, has effected China's grain security, contributed to increased agricultural pollution, and created large groups of landless migratory workers. Existing laws have provided a framework to limit the conversion of agricultural land, but their language and enforcement is inadequate. Indeed, changes such as the 2008 Decision have inadvertently exacerbated a growing problem of agricultural land destruction. With available arable land at an all-time low and an ever-increased rate of conversion, the Chinese government must make the conservation and regulation of agricultural land a high priority.

Faced with this host of legal, environmental, economic and social problems, China has recently taken strong policy and administrative measures to stem the tide of agricultural land destruction. Recent policy statements by the State council, administrative regulations, and high-profile cases against domestic corporations are the beginnings of a crackdown on illegal use of agricultural land.

While some have argued that these changes are only a temporary crackdown and will not bring lasting solutions to China agricultural problems. I will argue these recent actions represent a shift from unregulated growth to a new era of agricultural modernization and environmental protection.

Continued after the break