Beijing's struggle to keep arable land away from the developers
Today was “Land Day” in China, which has been a date in the Chinese news calendar since 1991 as a way of promoting the preservation of arable land.
This is something which the majority of Chinese still depend on for a living but which is under constant threat from industrialization and real estate developers, who often obtain it illegally in exchange for bribes to from corrupt local government officials.
This year’s paradoxical slogan “Safeguard scientific sustainible development. Protect the red line of agricultural land” sums up the conflict in China’s two-tiered approach to development as it tries to increase industrial output at the same time as safeguarding the livelihood of rural residents by not building on at least 18 mu (1.2 billion square kilometers) of arable land in the country – the “red line” number that government experts have come up with as a critical point. By the end of 2008, there was only 1.22 billion square kilometres Chinese arable land
Over two-thirds of China’s population is classed as agricultural residents. Every single one, whether young or old, is entitled to a piece of land to till. The current average 11.4 mU (930 square metres) farming land per person. This land is redivided by the village councils every few years, taking into account any deaths and (official) births. On top of this, every rural family is entitled to housing land in the village (they are technically forbidden to build on the farming land).
While China has 20 percent of the world’s population, it has just 7 percent of its arable land. The amount of arable land per capita 40 percent less than the world average. And while the population is still increasing, so too is the amount of arable land decreasing. Between 1997 and 2007, the average decrease was 7.5 square kilometres a year.
There are concerns that protecting the “red line” will push up property prices, by not giving way to new projects. However, the Ministry of Land and Resources recently surveyed 620 real estate development projects, demonstrating that land prices account for only 23.2 percent of house prices, compared to 60 percent in Japan.
Mainland China real estate stocks rose an average 1.23 percent today.
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