Chinese farmers have always loved the land. In an agricultural society land is the only means of livelihood for most of the population. Therefore land ownership, development policy, and the distribution of land by the past imperial government is of grave concern to those who owned land and those who farmed it. From the ancient practice of ‘well-field system’1 of cultivation to other policies of land distribution and ownership, China has gone through many systems of land disposition. Historically, land was concentrated in the hands of the few rich, educated ruling elite of the society. It was a perpetual system of landlord exploitation which began with the Sung dynasty. Over the centuries those who became rich would invest their money in land ownership, while the poor were reduced to the status of tenants. They had to work hard in order to pay the landowner and still have enough to live on. In bad years they relied on the mercy of the benevolent landowner for support to prevent them from starvation. Such a practice had disastrous consequences. Eventually, the system was disrupted by Western imperial powers toward the end of the nineteenth century. Sun Yat-sen’s revolution of 1911 proposed a land distribution policy of peaceful reform to give ownership of land to the tillers. He suggested that increased land value should belong to the public through higher tax or government repossession of the land if the owner did not want to pay the high tax.
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Notes and References
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