China to Lift Temporary Ban on Transfers of Farmland for Development

November 1, 2004

Both the Beijing News 10/28) and the Wall Street Journal (10/26, subscription only) report that a temporary ban on the sale of arable land imposed by the Chinese government is set to be lifted October 31. The ban was imposed in April in a State Council circular and contained exceptions for transfers of farmland needed for energy, irrigation, traffic, and large-scale public works in urban areas, provided that the State Council approves such sales. The same document launched a nationwide inspection and rectification campaign to root out illegal conversions of arable land and tighten land management. The campaign was led by the Ministry of Land and Resources and supported by seven ministries and commissions.

Authorities imposed the measures in April as part of an effort to cool down China’s overheated economy, slow a steady loss of arable land, and address instability caused by corruption and abuses in the land sale process. The reports note that the land sale ban will be replaced by new rules placing stricter conditions on transfers of arable land and improving compensation standards for displaced farmers. In support of the new rules, which have not yet been released to the public, both the People’s Daily (10/29) and China Daily (10/29) published commentaries calling for stricter land management.