China Leadership Monitor

Tackling the Land Issue—Carefully

Friday, January 9, 2009

Thirty years after undergoing a major revolution that de-collectivized agriculture, China is facing another major change in rural life as commercial agriculture spreads and as peasants migrate to the cities. This revolution in rural affairs, however, has been much more difficult. Cadres and peasants contend over land rights, growing income gaps between urban and rural areas fuel social discontent, and cities resist extending urban services to rural migrants. As the recent decision of the Third Plenum shows, China’s leaders are confronting the difficult issues involved, but are doing so cautiously. The Plenum decision also suggests that socially contentious issues that have boiled over in many places will continue for years to come.