This presentation explores the role of socialist property institutions for the current commercial transformation of the Chinese agriculture. The concurrent existence of collective ownership of farmland and a rapid transformation of the Chinese agriculture from one dominated by smallholding to increasingly commercial and industrialized economies of scale is puzzling. How can commercial investors in agriculture secure the necessary farmland for their operations if they are unable to own, buy and sell land? How has the Chinese solution - and there has to be one since we see a thriving commercial agriculture - been affected by the continuing existence of the underlying socialist property regime? The central argument presented here is that that the transformation of Chinese agriculture toward commercial and industrialized production takes place not despite socialist property institutions but is, in fact, enabled by them.
The presentation first introduces the path-dependent transformation of the Chinese rural property regime based upon collective ownership of farmland and the Household Responsibility System (HRS) since the beginning of the reforms in agriculture in the early 1980s. It describes how new ideas about the purpose and future of agriculture and smallholding triggered a step-by-step transformation of the HRS to allow market-like transfer of farmland for agricultural usage. The rural practice of these market-like structures is then investigated using data from fieldwork in Shandong, Sichuan, Guizhou an Gansu Province conducted between 2008 and 2016.
Dr. René Trappel is a political scientist with a regional focus on China and East Asia. He completed his PhD thesis at Duisburg-Essen University in 2013 and now works as lecturer at the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Freiburg. His main research interests include agrarian change, local governance and urbanization.