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The Practice and Reconstruction of Village Communal Ownership: An Analytical Framework for Collective Forest Tenure Disputes in China

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 35, No. 4, 2014

 

The Practice and Reconstruction of Village Communal Ownership: An

Analytical Framework for Collective Forest Tenure Disputes in China

(Abstract)

 

Zhu Dongliang

 

As shown in the many disputes occurring in reforms to collective forest tenure, reforms aimed at clarifying property rights that follow the contract responsibility system for arable land are not wholly compatible with the informal system of property rights followed in village communities up to the present. This highlights the fact that the existing theory of collective property rights no longer provides a sufficient or effective interpretation of the property rights game in the practice of collective forest tenure. Further, the existing institutional arrangements for collective property rights are conducive neither to the resolution of disputes over forest tenure nor to the sustainable management and utilization of forest land. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a more inclusive analytical framework for rural property rights: village communal ownership. This highlights the village community as the main force in the practice of property rights and integrates the communal ownership values accumulated and inherited in the course of village transition. The introduction of a rational mechanism developed through the practice of village communal ownership may be able to further improve and encourage the reform of rural property rights in China, leading to the construction of a modern system of rural property rights involving clear title to the land.