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Chinese farmers expect reform to ease land rights worries

Updated: 2013-12-13 15:48
( Xinhua)

Chinese farmers expect reform to ease land rights worries

Rural workers in the fields in Mengcheng county, Anhui province, which operates the land rights transfer system. [Photo by Hu Weiguo / for China Daily]

HEFEI -- City people barely glance at migrant workers like Li Jinlong, an electric welder, who lives with his wife in makeshift dwellings near plants or construction sites.

Li has spent the past 20 years living a humble life in Chinese cities. He seldom has time to go back to his rural home, a two-story private abode that would be envied by urbanites who want to escape from city life.

Li has never dreamed of buying an apartment in the city, as property prices, even in China's second-tier cities, are skyrocketing.

What really makes the former farmer from Anhui province anxious is that his rural house and land have been left unattended, yielding no crops nor revenue all these years.

There are more than 200 million farmers like Li toiling in cities without a decent dwelling place. Their farmland and houses in rural areas have never been their own property because they can neither trade them for cash nor mortgage them for bank loans under the country's land laws.

Although China's urban property market has flourished since the 1990s, and has been a major engine of economic growth, the collective ownership rules for rural land have not changed, which has constricted rural development.

The reason lies in the fact that farmers who are entitled to property use rights don't have property certificates to trade these rights.

In order to unleash the vitality of the rural sector, China's leaders have decided to tackle the rural land issue by putting forward a number of reforms at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee held in November. A reform master plan approved at the session promises to give the country's 650 million rural residents more property rights.

Li feels he is lucky, as his hometown has been listed as one of 20 counties in Anhui to pilot a new round of rural property transfer reform.

The pilot program was announced by the provincial government on the final day of the plenary session. The reform plan is designed to pilot the mortgaging and transfer of farmers' homesteads, as well as the sale, lease and demutualization of rural construction land.

Anhui is the first Chinese province to announce it will launch the new rural land reform. Details of the reform, however, have not yet been announced.

An official with the provincial bureau of land resources, who declined to be named, said the reform is expected to ease the financing bottleneck to encourage large-scale farming and invigorate the rural economy.

He said the key to tackling reform is to transform the land use rights of rural property from their current state as collective land resources to private property.

Li, the migrant worker, hopes that once transaction is allowed, his property can be sold for a good price, as he has already planned for his retirement.

He wants to sell the house and go live with his son, who is currently working in Anhui's provincial capital of Hefei.

Lu Pengfei, president of the Pengfei Modern Farming Co-operative in Anhui, said he has already bought 5,000 mu (333 hectares) of land, which was transferred by individual farmers through earlier rural land reforms. However, he cannot mortgage the land to apply for bank loans for large-scale farming activities.

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