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Yours, Mine, or Everyone’s Property? China’s Property Law in 2007


China’s passage of the Real Property Rights Law in 2007 undoubtedly marked a milestone of its economic transition to market economy. It delineates the boundary of property belongings and the authority of disposition by including or excluding specific individual and groups of individuals. The purpose of this paper is to trace the debate, deliberation, and decision of the law-making process to show the process of bargaining and compromise of various political interests in China’s complex and difficult economic transition.

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  1. 1.

    For an excellent summary of socialist legal system of property, please see Heller [1].

  2. 2.

    There are various approaches to the concept of property right. For example, property right can be pluralized and disaggregated into various categories of rights—control, income, and transfer. See [11, 12, 13, 14, 15].

  3. 3.

    Schurmann [20]. The text of the 1930 Civil code can be found in <>, accessed Oct. 31, 2007. For further elaboration, please see Bell [21].

  4. 4.

    Fewsmith [24: 184]. The term of “quasi-private” enterprises is used in Pei [25: 87–88].

  5. 5.

    In this case, getihu is defined as individual business entity with less than eight employees. See Zhang Houyi, Ming Lizhi, and Liang Zhuanyun, ed.s., siying qiye lanpishu: zhongguosiying qiye fazhan baogao [Blue Book of Private Enterpreises: A Report on the Development of China’s Private Enterprises], data in various years compiled by Tsai [26], Table 3.1, 55.

  6. 6.

    The debate between Li Yining’s advocacy of ownership reform and Wu Jinglian’s suggestion of price reform in 1986 can be found in Fewsmith [24: 184–187].

  7. 7.

    Fewsmith [24: 186–87]. Li Yining is nicknamed “Mr. Stock Market” because of his suggestion that China’s state-owned enterprises could be transformed into shareholder-owned companies with the condition that the government would still retain a substantial interest.

  8. 8.

    zhonghua renmin gongheguo qiye pochanfa (shixing) (Law of the PRC Enterprise Bankruptcy (for trial implementation)), <>. Accessed January 4, 2008.

  9. 9.

    Beijing qingnian baoshe [Beijing Youth Daily Press] and Zhongguo shehui kexueyuan qingnian renwen shehui kexue yanjiu zhongxin [Center of Youth, Humanities, Social Sciences, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences], ed., Zhongguo paixing lanpishu (Chinese people blue book) (Beijing: Liberty Army Arts Press, 2002), 10–11. It is difficult to give an approximate value of these private enterprises in US dollars during the 1990s due to the upward exchange rate of Chinese currency against US currency in 1994. See Obstfeld [29].

  10. 10.

    For a distinction between transaction type and non-transaction type of corruption, please see Sun [32], chapter 2 and 3. For more about China’s corruption, please see Manion [33].

  11. 11.

    Doug Guthrie offered an interesting discussion of China’s economic reform and the rule of law. Please see Cuthrie [39].

  12. 12.

    “zhonggong zhongyang guanyu jianli shehui zhuyi shichang jingji tizhi ruogan wenti de jueding” [CCP central authority’s decision on several issues related to the establishment of socialist market economic system] <>, accessed January 6, 2008; Zhang [40]. For an analysis of Deng’s trip to southern China in 1992, please see Zhao [41].

  13. 13.

    A list of laws and administrative acts related to property rights in China can be found in Newly Edited Little Encyclopedia of Real Property Rights 2007.

  14. 14.

    See chapter 5 of zhonghua renmin gongheguo gongsifa (The PRC Company Law), <>.

  15. 15.

    Data can be found in Naughton [23: 300–302].

  16. 16.

    The 1982 Constitution and its amendments in 1988, 1993, 1999, and 2004 can be found in Chinese government official site, <>.

  17. 17.

    <>, <> <>.

  18. 18.

    Huixing et al. [45]. A brief summary of his views can be found in Xiuping [46: 7]; Xianfeng Huang [47: 204–205]; Guo and Lijun [48: 357].

  19. 19.

    Liming [49]. A brief summary of his views can be found in Xiuping [46: 7–8]; Xianfeng Huang [47: 205]; Guo and Lijun [48: 357–358].

  20. 20.

    A comparison of various drafts of the Real Property Right Law in different years can be found in Zhesheng et al. [50].

  21. 21.

    According to the government, there were 11,543 pieces of comments and suggestions sent to the NPC. Zhihui [51: 16–18].

  22. 22.

    Xianfeng Huang [47: 206]. For example, scholars have debated about the “hybrid” nature of township and village enterprises (TVE). See Chen [52].

  23. 23.

    See xinben wuquanfa xiaoquanshu (Law and Regulations on Real Rights) (Beijing: Law Press China, 2007), 198.

  24. 24.

    Wu Jiandong, “xiao chanquan fang” (Small Personal House), nanfang zhoumo (Southern Weekend), Dec. 12, 2007. <>; National Bureau of Statistics of China, <>.

  25. 25.

    Natural villages and administrative villages are actually not clearly delineated. The number of natural villages also varies in different sources. Peter Ho indicated that there were approximately 1.5 million natural villages. However, the statistical information in this paper is from zhongguo xianyu shehui jingji nianjian, 2000–2005 (Chinese Yearbook of Society and Economy of County Areas, 2000–2005) and zhongguo jingshen wenming jianshe nianjian, 2002 (Chinese Yearbook of Constructing Spiritual Civilization, 20002) <>. Accessed February 24, 2008. Also see Ho [54: 28].

  26. 26.

    Xiaohu [56]; Li Yingli, “Wuquanfa caoan de zongti pingjia ji 80 tiao juti xiugai jianyi” (Overall Assessments of the Real Property Rights Law and Eighty Concrete Proposals for Revision), <>; Chen Yufeng and Xu Shaohua, “buke qiujie de yidao fangzhengshi: pancguan wuquanfa zhi shi”(One Unresolvable Equation: Problems with the Draft of the Real Property Rights Law), <>.

  27. 27.

    See quanguo renda chanweihui fazhi gongzuo weiyuanhui minfashi (Civil Code Office, Legal Affairs Committee, National People’s Congress, Standing Committee, with Yao Hong as the editor-in-chief), ed., zhonghua renmin gongheguo wuquanfa jingjie (Detailed Interpretation of the PRC’s Real Property Rights Law), 103.

  28. 28.

    Some reports even indicated an alarming loss of RMB 353 billion (US$45.1 billion) in state assets in 2004. Please see “qunian guyou zichan liushi 3,500 yiyuan” (Last Year State Assets Lost 350 billion RMB), Nov. 8, 2005, <>; “Li Jinghua: guoyou ziyuan duochu liushi…” (Li Jinghua: Losses of National Resources in Many Places…), May 10, 2007. <>; Jie [57].

  29. 29.

    Excerpts of Gong Xiantian’s letter have been frequently quoted in various articles. See Lei [60]; Zhiwei [61].

  30. 30.

    Bo [62]; Zhao Xiao, “shengshi weiyan” (Alarming Words in the Flourishing Age). <>.

  31. 31.

    In December 2006, the petition continued. The petition letter with 718 signatures was posted on the web to encourage more people to join. See <>.

  32. 32.

    “Your Guide to ‘New Socialist Countryside’,” People’s Daily Online. March 8, 2006. <>.

  33. 33.

    The debate can be found in Shuoming [69].

  34. 34.

    The term of China’s land utilization rights varies. Residential land is contracted for 70 years; industrial land is 50 years; commercial land is for 40 years; land for mixed purposes is 50 years. According to the Real Property Rights Law, residential land utilization right will be automatically extends after its expiration date. See United Daily, Taipei, May 19, 2007, p. A20; Ying and Lin [53: 190–194].

  35. 35.

    According to Zhang Fuliang, the NPC passed a law to reduce the level of representation of rural population. The ratio of urban population to rural population in the election of NPC representatives has been changed from 8:1 at the beginning of reform era to 4:1 in 1995. Moreover, the law stipulated that one representative be allocated for 960,000 rural residents. Therefore, with an estimate of 782,410,000 peasants in late 2002, there should be 815 representatives in the 10th NPC. The real number elected from the rural area was 251, 30.8% of the allocated number of NPC representatives. See Fuliang [76].

  36. 36.

    The petition letter remained only 2 to 3 days on the web. However, the letter later was reposted in a different site. See Dong fang [78].

  37. 37.

    “Rule of Law Progresses Steadily in China,” China Daily, Nov. 12, 2002, p. 2.

  38. 38.

    A study of the interaction between society and market can be found in Neil [80]. Also, please see Migdal [81]; Shue [82].

  39. 39.

    “China’s Me Generation,” Time, Nov. 5, 2007, 51.

  40. 40.

    French [83]. As for Chinese reports and comments, please see nanfang zhoumo (Southern Weekend), March 29, 2007 and April 5, 2007. <>.


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Lee, W. Yours, Mine, or Everyone’s Property? China’s Property Law in 2007. J OF CHIN POLIT SCI 15, 25–47 (2010).

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  • Property Law
  • Economic Transition
  • Property Rights
  • Real Property
  • Civil Code