China may be gearing up for mass confiscation and reallocation of farmland

New Delhi, April 22 New rules governing the transfer of rural land in China have sparked concerns that the ruling Communist Party may be gearing up for the mass confiscation and reallocation of farmland in the name of “stabilising the grain supply”, a media report said.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced this week that it will roll out a pilot scheme to “standardise” the transfer of rural property rights, as well as “strengthening supervision and management” over the use of rural land in China, which is typically leased to farmers on 30-year “household responsibility” contracts, with the ownership remaining with the government, Radio Free Asia reported.

The move comes after the administration of supreme party leader Xi Jinping made it easier in 2016 for farmers to be bought out of household responsibility leases, to encourage farmers to relocate to urban areas to reduce rural poverty.

Under the new land rules, officials are expected to “give full play to government leadership” via controversial agricultural management enforcement officials, who critics fear will send the country back to Mao-era collective farming and micromanagement of people’s daily lives, RFA reported.

Analysts and farmers said that the main point of the additional controls is the tightening of state control over the supply of grain and to facilitate the transfer of rural land away from farmers if needed, RFA reported.

The move comes amid an ongoing government campaign to “stabilize the grain supply” and other moves to ensure food security, including revamping moribund Mao-era food coops and ordering the construction of state-run canteens.

The rules insist on “disciplined transactions” including supervision of contract-signing and “certification,” and could pave the way for the mass reallocation of farmland in future, analysts said, RFA reported.

Financial commentator Cai Shenkun said the scope of the pilot scheme is unprecedented.

“Given the involvement of the agricultural management officials who are now empowered to enforce the law, I think it has something to do with the next step, which will be the confiscation and reallocation of land,” he said, RFA reported.

Agricultural management officials are among a slew of local officials empowered in a July 2021 directive to enforce laws and regulations without the involvement of the police.

There are growing signs of unease around the new breed of rural “enforcer”, RFA reported.

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