Leading Chinese economist urges reform to farmers’ land usage rights

19th CPC National Congress

Chinese economists are parsing every word of General Secretary Xi’s work report, delivered at the opening the 19th CPC National Congress. One of the leading economic voices in China is Cai Ji-ming, a professor at Tsinghua University.

CGTN’s Han Bin spoke to the professor about the need to reform China’s land system.

As the urban-rural wealth gap continues to widen, Chinese farmers are stuck not being allowed to sell or transfer land usage rights.

For two decades, Professor Cai Jiming has been studying the country’s rural land system, and is advocating a more decisive role for the market in allocating land resources. According to Cai, this is the best way to end rural poverty.

“Farmers have no say when it comes to the acquisition of their land by the local governments,” the professor said. “The land price is not set by the market, resulting in a large number of farmers’ petitions or even extreme group events.”

In his report at the CPC National Congress, General Secretary Xi Jinping pushed deepening reforms of the system.

“We must concentrate on ensuring the market-based allocation of factors of production; we should ensure free flows of factors, flexible prices, fair and orderly competition,” Xi said.

Cai is reading between the lines.

He finds no level playing field when it comes to the allocation of the many factors of production. These include the labor, migrant workers’ rights, and civilian enterprises versus state-owned enterprises.

“I personally feel that the market in many ways does not really play a decisive role,” he said.

Cai says China still largely lags behind in achieving such goals, and seeking solutions to existing problems can feel like an uphill battle.

“I think as long as reforms can be pushed forward by the government, we must support it. And if we feel that the reforms’ intensity is not strong enough or its pace too slow, we have the responsibility to put forward our suggestions on deepening reforms to the government.”

Many experts have pointed out one of the key challenges for China’s economic reform is the relationship between the government and market. Xi says the country has already set out on that road.