China Lessons Learned Briefing Paper

Twentieth century China was a laboratory of both successful and disastrous land tenure reforms. In the early part of the century, the Chinese Communist Party won the popular support of the mass of the rural population, largely thanks to a land tenure reform where numerous poor peasants were given land with full private ownership during 1949-1956. This resulted in a 70% increase in grain production and an even higher increase in farm income (Lin 1988, Chen 2008). In 1956, China unfortunately decided to follow in the footsteps of the former Soviet Union and promoted collective farms. Private ownership and family farms were prohibited, and collectives (village communities or their agglomerations) became land owners and farm operators. Agricultural production plummeted, and 15 to 30 million consequent deaths occurred during the years 1958-1962 (Peng 1987).

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