Thus, merging villages and constructing multi-story residential blocks in the countryside have become a popular means of saving construction land and winning more farmland. With the new quota, cities can continue to expropriate farmland on the urban fringe.

Confrontations between villagers and local governments or developers are a common phenomenon in China’s urbanisation process. Complaints refer to anything from violent demolitions and farmland expropriation to corruption and a lack of compensation payments. In 2006, there were an estimated 90,000 mass incidents, more than 60 per cent of which were over land disputes. Subsequently, no further numbers were published, but the trend was clear. Social unrest was growing and becoming more violent. The large-scale village demolitions of recent years have even drawn the attention of the urban middle classes, who fear the loss of cultural heritage.

 “New rural communities” – further promoting rural out-migration

The reluctance of many villagers to move into the “new rural communities” is also connected to the neglect or inability of several local governments, particularly in less prosperous agricultural regions, to turn the communities into liveable places.