However, what made them particularly interesting for local governments was the more efficient use of rural construction land.

Expropriation, violent demolition, corruption

Construction land is becoming more and more precious in rapidly urbanising China, where urbanisation equals modernisation and GDP growth, and economic success produces political career opportunities for local officials. Moreover, local governments fill their coffers with land deals on the urban land market. Despite some pilot projects, a rural land market has not developed yet, and only China’s central and local governments hold the authority to expropriate rural land and convert it into urban land. In order to protect the country’s farmland, the central government allocates strict quotas for the different land types, and local governments cannot expropriate more farmland for urban expansion than the quotas allow. However, there is a loophole. If they increase the farmland quota in their locality, local governments, in turn, also have more construction land quota at their disposal.