Will Upcoming Land Reform Make Rural Hukou More Valuable Than Urban?
A Chinese netizen says in a post,"I live in Chongqing
with a rural hukou (household registration).
My wife comes from Hunan and has an urban hukou.
After we married, my wife wanted to move her hukou to
my hometown, but the public bureau said her hukou
could not be changed to a rural one!"
His post has led hundreds of Chinese netizens to heated debate.
Let’s have a look at the report below.
In 2010, 195 government employees in Yiwu city,
Zhejiang province, secretly changed their hukou to rural ones
on the computer system.
There has been a local saying that
“any rural hukou in Yiwu is worth over a million yuan".
This indeed refers to the land value attached to
a rural hukous in Yiwu.
Mainland Chinese media say such “deurbanization" moves
are results of land values.
Urbanization, industrialization and over-construction of
real estates have greatly raised land prices in recent years.
Consequently, rural workers have become unwilling to move
their hukou into cities even if they work there.
The reason is, once their hukou become urban they will
automatically lose lands and therefore chances to benefit
from surging land prices.
Zheng Yuwen, former deputy editor of Central Party School
publication Study Times, says that the value of a rural hukou
can be much higher than that of an urban one
in developed regions such as Yiwu.
This is because rural residents have land, which itself
is worth a lot of money.
Zheng Yuwen, former deputy editor of Study Times
magazine:"In Yiwu the land resource is pretty scarce.
When local government expropriates farm lands for
construction, the compensation is much higher than
average income of governmental employees,
even if it is not calculated at the average market
land price of the region."
However, a problem is that currently rural Chinese residents
have no land ownership.
They are only allowed to sell lands to the government,
but not to developers.
Cao Siyuan, CEO of Beijing Siyuan Social Science Research
Center and a former member of the State Council
economic reform committee,
says that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has deprived
peasants of land ownership, which is almost all they have.
That is why Chinese peasants are so poor.
Cao Siyuan, Beijing Siyuan Social Science Research Center
CEO: “Peasants should own the lands in rural regions.
But through the movement of People’s Communes,
the ownership became collective, and then bureaucratic.
Now nobody exactly knows who has the ownership and
therefore the problem has become complicated."
The land reform issue was a hot topic before
the Third Plenary Session.
In a Nov. 1 article, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
called on the CCP authorities to return full house
and land ownership to peasants.
For a long time, local party leaders have generated revenue
and gotten rich through taking land from peasants
and selling it to developers.
Insufficient compensation and unclear land ownership are
the top complaints from peasants.
Zheng Yuwen: “Right now, peasants can only sell lands
to the government.
So the government really plays the role of an intermediary.
As the middleman they will squeeze benefits for sure
because peasants cannot sell the lands to anyone else.
They can lowball the land price and then sell to developers
at a much higher price, making huge profits.
Why are local governments so active in doing this?
The answer is simply the huge profits.”
Zheng says the Third Plenary Session
will not approve private land ownership,
but will approve reform of “Same Region, Same Price".
The so-called principle of"Same Region, Same Price"
will allow peasants to bypass the “middlemen” that are
local governments and directly sell lands to developers.
This also allows peasants to sell their lands
at the same prices that the authorities do.
Zheng Yuwen:"I think there is a good chance it’ll be approved.
Because allowing peasants to sell lands will, for one thing,
lead to lower housing prices, and secondly,
it will increase rural household incomes."
Although the CCP leaders Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang made
their promise of carrying out reforms,
it is an undeniable fact that local party officials have
become accustomed to relying on land sales for revenue.
With the huge amounts of debts owed by many local
governments, how will the central government overcome
resistance from local officials to make real changes
with land reforms?
This is another big trouble for the party leaders.
Zou Xiaoyun is a deputy chief engineer of Land Surveying
and Planning Institute at the Ministry of Land and Resources.
Zou told Shanghai Security News that there are currently
serious land supply and allocation problems:
“The problems of the current land system are very clear.
More importantly, the land supply system is closely
related to the entire economy, as well as issues such as
inflation and high house prices."
Zou also revealed that there were still disagreements about
the transfer of collective-owned farm lands for construction.
This indicates that implementing reform is still difficult
despite the many demands for it.
A source related to the Ministry of Land and Resources told
Shanghai Security News that farm land transfer is a main
part of the reform plan.
However, top-level reform plans still come to no conclusive
point on this issue due to the complexity of the problems.
Another source revealed that the Third Plenary Session may
only touch land reform to a limited extent,
but will clarify the direction for future reform plans.