International Symposium on Land and Development

All day
Through June 20, 2015

Jun. 19



Land is a cornerstone of development and has been an object of contestation throughout human history.  The distribution of land, security of property rights, access to and availability of financing, and the organization of rural producers are all important factors that affect rural productivity and urban-rural relations. As the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, land in key urban areas now commands premium values and urban land regimes have assumed growing importance in national and regional development policies.


In this international symposium, we hope to bring together researchers from multiple continents and disciplines to examine the land-development nexus.


The conference will focus on two principal issues. The first is how are property rights established. Under what conditions will political actors undertake reform initiatives to alter weak or contested property rights in favor of well-defined and enforceable property rights? Why might actors eschew the establishment of secure property rights? Who are the winners and losers in the course of this process?


The second question this conference will engage is how property rights are related to development. Do strong property rights regimes encourage efficient land exploitation and facilitate liquid land markets and mobile labor, ultimately contributing to economic growth? Does this depend on the initial underlying distribution of land and its implications for productivity and investment incentives? And do weak property rights conversely engender underuse of resources and political instability?




Michael Albertus

Department of Political Science

The University of Chicago


Ran Tao

National Academy of Development and Strategy

Renmin University of China


Dali L. Yang

Department of Political Science

The University of Chicago



Friday, June 19, 2015

8:45 Meet at the Crowne Plaza lobby and walk to the UChicago Centerin Beijing

9:15 – 9:30 Opening Remarks  Michael Albertus, University of ChicagoRan Tao, Renmin University of ChinaDali L. Yang, University of Chicago
9:30 – 10:40 Session 1: Land and Economic Development (1)
   Chair: Yue Chim Richard Wong, University of Hong Kong
Land and Economic Development in China: Some Long-Run Perspectives
Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago

Land and Management of Chinese Capitalism Meg Rithmire, Harvard Business School

10:40 – 11:10 Break

11:10 – 12:25 Session 2: Land and Economic Development (2)
   Chair: Michael Albertus, University of Chicago

Land Institutional Change and China’s Economic Miracle: An Economic Interpretation Shouying Liu, Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council of China
  Land Redevelopment in Chinese Cities Bottom Up and Inside Out: Practicing Land Property Rights over Villages in the City amidst Accelerated Urbanization George C. S. Lin, University of Hong Kong
12:30 – 1:45 Lunch: Vegetarian bento
1:45 – 3:00 Session 3: Land Use and Administration
   Chair: Dali L. Yang, University of Chicago
  Land Administration and Practice in the New Territories of Hong Kong
Yue Chim Richard Wong, University of Hong Kong
  Japan’s Agricultural Land Use Policy: Issues and Lessons LearnedYoshihisa Godo, Meiji Gakuin University
3:00 – 3:30
3:30 – 5:30 Session 4: Land Expropriation in China
   Chair: Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago
Land Taking and the Politics of Electoral Rule Setting: Evidence from Chinese Rural Democracy
Ran Tao, Renmin University of China
Reframing Property Right within the Land Right Disputes in TaiwanJinn-yuh Hsu, National Taiwan UniversityWei-chieh Hung, Rutgers University

How do Land Takings Affect Political Trust in Rural China

Ernan Cui, Gavekal Dragonomics Beijing office

6:00 DinnerRestaurant: Mashi Casserole, 2nd Floor, Culture Plaza


Saturday, June 20, 2015

9:15 – 11:00 Session 5: Property Rights Chair: George C.S. Lin, University of Hong Kong
Delinking Land Rights from Land Use: Certification and Migration in Mexico 
Alain de Janvry, University of California, Berkeley

Authoritarian Survival and Property Traps: Land Reform in Mexico Michael Albertus, University of Chicago

Occupy the City: Insurgent Property Rights and Housing Movements in Sao Paulo Yue Zhang, University of Illinois, Chicago 

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 12:30   Session 6: Land and Political Trust
Chair: Ran Tao, Renmin University of China
The ‘Credibility Thesis’ and its Application to Property Rights: (In)secure Land Tenure and Social Welfare in China
Peter Ho, Delft University of Technology
Land Expropriation in China: An Examination of Negotiations and Compensation Hui Wang, Zhejiang University

12:30 – 12:45 Closing remarks 
12:45 Walk back to the Crowne Plaza

1:00 Lunch: Dim-SumRestaurant: Hong Xuan, 2nd Floor, Crowne Plaza

5:30 Meet at the Crowne Plaza lobby and leave for dinner

6:00 Dinner at Quanjude Peking Duck, Tsinghua




Michael Albertus

Michael Albertus is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His main research focus is on the political conditions under which governments implement egalitarian reforms. His first book project, Autocracy and Redistribution: The Politics of Land Reform, forthcoming at Cambridge University Press, examines why and when land reform programs are implemented. Other research interests include political regime transitions and stability, politics under dictatorship, clientelism, and civil conflict. Albertus’ work has been published in the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Economics & Politics, Comparative Politics, International Studies Quarterly, and Latin American Research Review.




Authoritarian Survival and Poverty Traps: Land Reform in Mexico

Why do governments in underdeveloped countries pursue policies that undercut long term economic growth? Focusing on Mexico’s massive but inefficient land reform, we argue that governments do so to underpin political survival. Using a panel dataset of Mexican states from 1917-1992, we find that land distribution was higher during election years and where the threat of rural unrest was greater. Furthermore, PRI support eroded more slowly in states receiving more reform. The inefficient system, carrying restrictive property rights, thus served the PRI regime’s electoral interests. While land distribution generated a loyal political clientele, it generated steep costs – lower long-term economic growth.


Ernan CUI


China Consumer Analyst

A native of Tianjin, Ernan Cui joined the Beijing office of Gavekal Dragonomics in 2013 as an analyst mainly covering consumer issues in China. She previously interned at Standard Chartered and Accenture, and was a part-time researcher at the University of Chicago’s Beijing Center. Ernan graduated from Renmin University of China with an MA in economics and a double bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics.




How Do Land Takings Affect Political Trust in Rural China?

While China’s ruling Communist Party has benefited from a reservoir of political trust engendered by more than three decades of rapid economic growth, it is confronted with rising social tensions and the prospect of instability. The number of mass incidents, a key measure of instability, has risen enormously, and a major source of such incidents stems from local governments taking land from farmers, often at below-market prices. In this article, we draw on data from two surveys to assess the political trust implications of land takings. We find that, as expected, land takings are associated with a decline in political trust. However, the decline affects trust in local authorities only and leaves the central government largely unscathed. Nonetheless, the gap between villagers’ trust in central and local authorities is not unalloyed good news for the regime and has major implications for policy implementation and governance.


Yoshihisa Godo

Yoshihisa Godo is Professor of Economics in Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo. He received his PhD degree from the University of Kyoto in 1992. His research fields include development economics and agricultural economics. Godo’s Development Economics (3rd edition), co-authored with Yujiro Hayami and published by the Oxford University Press, in 2005, is especially well known. His Japanese book, Nihon no Shoku to Nou (Food and Agriculture in Japan), received the 28th Suntory Book Prize in 2006, one of the most prestigious academic book prizes in Japan. Three of his books were translated to Mandarin and published by Chinese publishers. He took research leaves at the East Asian Institute in the National University of Singapore (from April in 2013 to March in 2014), the Economic Growth Center in Yale University (from April 2005 to March 2006), and the Asia Pacific Research Center in Stanford University (from April 1997 to March 1998). He has been engaged in various social activities such as a committee member for the Osaka Dojima Commodity Exchange and Special Councilor to the Osaka City Government.


Peter Ho

Prior to taking up his current post Peter Ho has served as Chair Professor for nearly 10 years. First, as Chair Professor of International Development Studies and Director of the Centre for Development Studies at Groningen University (1648), and subsequently as Chair Professor of Chinese Economy and Development at the University of Leiden (1575) and Director of its Modern East Asia Research Centre.

In recognition of his scientific achievements, Prof. Ho was awarded the prestigious Independent Research Grant as Consolidator by the European Research Council (ERC). This highly competitive prize of 1.5 million Euros targets the top scientists within the European Union. The ERC Review Panel noted about Prof. Ho that he: “is a world renowned scholar with an impressive set of publications and awards to his name” while his achievements and publications “show great intellectual capacity and creativity” (ERC Review Report, 2011).
Peter Ho has initiated and supervised large-scale projects with a total budget of over 4.5 million Euro. His projects have been personally supported by the Vice-Chairman of the National People’s Congress of China and the Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation, and were visited by the Chinese Vice-Minister of Land and Resources, and the Dutch Minister of Spatial Planning and Environment.
Peter Ho acts as advisor to members of the Chinese government and the Dutch Cabinet, including the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He has served on various commissions as a scientific advisor for the OECD, the EU, international corporations and banks.




The ‘Credibility Thesis’ and its Application to Property Rights:

(In) secure Land Tenure and Social Welfare in China

Debates over tenure insecurity have been divided between those favoring private, marketable, and formalized property rights versus champions of grassroots’ customary and communal arrangements. By positing the “credibility thesis”, this article argues that it might be more insightful to move beyond concepts of formal and informal, private and common, or secure and insecure institutions, to leave the discussion about institutional form for a discussion about function. The notion of credibility does so by drawing attention to institutional function over time and space rather than to a desired form postulated by theory or political conviction. Apart from furthering the theoretical foundations on credibility and institutional functionalism, this article aims to develop its methodology and empirical study by taking China as a case- study, with particular reference to its rural land-lease system, which is perceived to be highly insecure due to forced evictions and government intervention. Paradoxically, the study finds significant social support for the rural land-lease system and a low level of conflict. These findings might indicate that the form of the Chinese rural lease system (insecure tenure) is the outcome of its present function (provision of social welfare). Simultaneously, it was also found that when conflict does occur expropriation is a prime cause for it.

Keywords: institutional change, titling, registration, legitimacy, governance, land grabbing, expropriation, urban sprawl, housing and real estate


Wei-chieh Hung

Wei-chieh Hung is a PhD student in Geography at Rutgers University. Prior to beginning the PhD program, he worked two years as a research assistant in Geography at National Taiwan University, where he received his master degree. Since 2012, he started to engage in several projects on housing policy reform with the Organization of Urban Re-s, one of the most active NGO working on land and housing issues in Taiwan. Based on these experiences, his main research interests are housing, property ownership, and urban politics, with a focus on the formation and transformation of the East Asia homeownership society.


George C.S. LIN

George C.S. Lin is Chair Professor of Geography and Associate Dean (Research) of Social Sciences in the University of Hong Kong. He is the author of Red Capitalism in South China: Growth and Development of the Pearl River Delta (UBC Press, Vancouver, Canada, 1997), Developing China: Land, Politics, and Social Conditions (Routledge, London, 2009), co-author of China’s Urban Space: Development under Market Socialism (Routledge, London, 2007), and over 90 articles published in internationally refereed journals and books.  His research interests include China’s urban development and urbanization, land use and land management, and the growth of urbanism in emerging economies of the global south. Professor Lin has served as Chair of the China Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (2007-08), Councilor and Vice-Chair of the Economic Geography Commission of the Geographical Society of China since 2006, and Head of the School of Geography (2006-08) of Hong Kong University. He has been on the editorial boards of international scholarly journals including Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, The Canadian Geographer, Urban Geography, The Chinese Geographical Science, and Eurasian Geography and Economics. He is the recipient of a Young Canadian Researcher Award (IDRC, Ottawa, Canada, 1992); University Teaching Fellow (HKU, 1998), Outstanding Young Researcher Award (HKU, 2002), Zijiang Chair Professorship (East China Normal University, Shanghai, China, 2010), Qiushi Chair Professorship (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China, 2014), and many competitive research grants from international funding agencies, including the NSF (USA), SSHRC (Canada), ARC (Australia), ESRC (UK), NSFC (China), and the Hong Kong Research Grants Council.


Shouying LIU


Liu Shouying is the Deputy Director General and Researcher of Rural Economy Department of the Development Research Center (DRC) of the State Council of China. He enjoys special allowance of the State Council, and has lectured land issues at the 31st Collective Study Session of the 17th Chinese Communist Party Politburo.


Liu is responsible for the strategic research of China’s land resources, urbanization and land system. He has also directed a large number of international cooperation projects with the World Bank, the Ford Foundation and other organizations. He was a key author of “China 2030” and “Urban China” reports by the DRC and the World Bank.


Liu is currently a visiting fellow of Harvard Kennedy School. Previously, he was a visiting scholar at Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (AAE) and Land Research Center at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Liu graduated from Department of Economics at Fudan University (Shanghai). His research topics have included institutional changes, land tenure, development economics, and urbanization. Liu has published nearly 100 articles in peer-reviewed international journals, and authored several books on China’s land issues.


Alain de Janvry

Alain de Janvry is a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His area of interest is international economic development, with expertise principally in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle-East, and the Indian subcontinent. His fields of work include poverty analysis, rural development, land reform, quantitative analysis of development policies, impact evaluation of social programs, technological innovations in agriculture, and the management of common property resources. He has worked with international development agencies such as FAO, IFAD, the World Bank, UNDP, ILO, the CGIAR, and the Inter-American Development Bank as well as with foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, Kellogg, and Gates.


Kenneth Pomeranz


University Professor of Modern Chinese History and in the College, Department Chair of History Department


Teaching and Research Interests:

Reciprocal influences of state, society and economy in late Imperial and twentieth-century China; the origins of a world economy as the outcome of mutual influences among various regions; and comparative studies of labor, family organization, and economic change in Europe and East Asia.

Kenneth Pomeranz previously taught at the University of California, Irvine. His work focuses mostly on China, though he is also very interested in comparative and world history. Most of his research is in social, economic, and environmental history, though he has also worked on state formation, imperialism, religion, gender, and other topics. His publications include The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (2000), which won the John K. Fairbank Prize from the AHA, and shared the World History Association book prize; The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society and Economy in Inland North China, 1853–1937 (1993), which also won the Fairbank Prize; The World that Trade Created (with Steven Topik, first edition 1999, 3rd edition 2012), and a collection of his essays, recently published in France. He has also edited or co-edited five books, and was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Global History. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Advanced Studies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and other sources. His current projects include a history of Chinese political economy from the seventeenth century to the present, and a book called Why Is China So Big? which tries to explain, from various perspectives, how and why contemporary China’s huge land mass and population have wound up forming a single political unit.




Land and Economic Development in China: Some Long-Run Perspectives


This paper combines and condenses excerpts from a much longer manuscript in progress, which discusses ways in which Ming/Qing patterns on land and water rights may have influenced the very long-run of Chinese development. In the larger manuscript, I try to place the arguments about China in various kinds of larger perspectives that are just barely touched on here – mostly in history, but to some extent also in development economics.


My focus is not primarily on contemporary issues, but with luck the paper will provide some useful perspectives. The geographic focus of the paper varies, but I pay particular attention to the Yangzi Delta, arguing that the pattern of development structured by its land and water rights in some ways drove the larger political economy of the late empire and Republic, and that those institutions have interesting – though obviously only partial – resemblances with those that have emerged in the post-1978 period, especially in Sunan.2 Given today’s radically different context however – technologically and otherwise – even those resemblances that continue today may have very different significances than they had in earlier periods..

Above all, I focus here on the prevalence in China’s most advanced regions of very strong usufruct rights. Tenants acquired such rights in various ways, including through participation in water control activities, which in turn played a crucial role in defining rural communities. The communities thus created were often the effective day to day arbiters of property rights, thus closing the circle. I have other papers that describe those rights in more detail, and I’m happy to talk about those things if people want to. But for current purposes, it seemed more useful to start by laying out big, somewhat speculative claims about the implications of those rights. The paper also includes a narrative sketching some of the ways in which the late imperial political economy fell apart and how, in spite of that, some of its key elements – as well as some of the problems it aimed to address –remained important up to and even beyond 1949. This makes the paper rather long, and those who are not particularly interested in history per se may want to skim sections II (“A Sysem Unravlling ca. 1800 – 1949”) and III (“Maoism”).


Meg Rithmire


Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Hellman Faculty Fellow

Meg Rithmire is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit, where she teaches the course of the same name in the MBA required curriculum. Professor Rithmire holds a PhD in Government from Harvard University, and her primary expertise is in the comparative political economy of development with a focus on China. Her first book, Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015), examines the role of land politics, urban governments, and local property rights regimes in the Chinese economic reforms. A new project investigates the influence of diasporas, and the overseas Chinese communities in particular, in the progress of economic and political reforms in the homeland. She is a faculty associate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Fairbank Center for East Asian Studies at Harvard. In 2015, she won the Faculty Teaching Award in the Required Curriculum.




Ran Tao is a professor in School of Economics and the Vice Dean of Hanqing School of Economics and Finance, at Renmin University of China based in Beijing. He is also non-resident senior fellow of Brooking Institution. A specialist on Chinese economy, he has published 40 articles on international journals and 50 articles on Chinese core social science journals. His research topics range from the political economy of China’s economic transition, land and household registration reform in China’s urbanization to local governance and public finance in China.


Fields of Interest


Public Finance, Economic Development, Political Economy of Chinese Economy and Transition, Urbanization




Hui Wang is a professor in the School of Public Affairs at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. He received his PH.D. from Zhejiang University in 2002. His research concerns urbanization, land taking, agricultural land tenure, and land development rights in China. His research has appeared most recently in the Land Use Policy, Habitat international, Housing Studies, China & World Economy, and some major Chinese academic journals.




Land Expropriation in China: An Examination of Negotiations and Compensation


China’s economic development and urbanization is reliant upon land expropriation, a process used to take land from farmers and converted it to non-agricultural uses but we don’t know much about how this process actually occurs. This study analyzes 2009 survey data of land expropriation cases across 12 Chinese cities and finds that expropriation takes different forms and influences outcomes. In half of the cases, the local government followed central government’s policy requiring them to pay standard rates of compensation to farmers, but in half of the cases, the local government negotiated with farmers over the terms of expropriation rather than using set formulas. In the latter scenario, farmers were 37.2% more likely to receive compensation higher than the standard rate. These negotiations favor farmers who are embedded in local power structures which could be counteracted if all households making up a rural collective negotiate one agreement rather than individual agreements.


Keywords: land expropriation; negotiation; compensation; property rights


Yue Chim Richard WONG


Professor Richard Wong is currently Professor of Economics, and Philip Wong Kennedy Wong Professor in Political Economy at the University of Hong Kong.

He is the founding Director of the Hong Kong Centre for Economic Research.


Dali L. YANG


Dali L. Yang is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. He is the founding Faculty Director of the University of Chicago Center in Beijing, a university-wide initiative to promote collaboration and exchange between UChicago scholars and students and their Chinese counterparts.


Professor Yang previously served in a number of other academic leadership roles. He was Chairman of the Political Science Department, Director of The Center for East Asian Studies, and Director of the Committee on International Relations, all at the University of Chicago. He also served as Director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore.


Professor Yang is a Board member of the Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, a member of the Committee of 100, a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, as well as a member of the China Committee of the Chicago Sister Cities International Program. He is a frequent public speaker and has been a consultant to industry, government agencies, and the World Bank. He was a team member and contributor to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs report The United States and the Rise of China and India (2006).


Professor Yang has served on the editorial boards of various journals such as American Political Science Review, Would Politics, and the Journal of Contemporary China. He has been a co-director of the University of Chicago Workshop on East Asia: Politics, Economy and Society. He is a member of the American Political Science Association and the Association for Asian Studies.


An engineering graduate of Beijing Science and Technology University, Yang Received his PhD in political science from Princeton University. He joined the University of Chicago faculty in 1992.




Yue Zhang is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her MA and Ph.D. degrees in Politics from Princeton University (2004, 2008) and her A.B. degree in International Relations from Peking University (2002). Her principal research interest is comparative urban politics and policies with a focus on urban governance, politics of land development, urbanization in developing countries, and globalization. Professor Zhang received the Norton Long Young Scholar Award in 2009 and the Stone Scholar Award in 2010, both from the American Political Science Association’s Urban Politics Section. She has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, with the most recent ones including a residential fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC in 2015-2016. Professor Zhang is the author of The Fragmented Politics of Urban Preservation: Beijing, Chicago, and Paris (University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Her other published work has appeared in Urban Affairs Review, Town Planning Review, The China Quarterly, among others. She has been consultant to UNESCO, the European Commission, and the municipal governments of Paris, São Paulo, and Guangzhou on issues related to historic preservation, sustainable urban development, and municipal reform. Professor Zhang is currently working on a book project comparing the formation and governance of megacities in China, India, and Brazil.