Farmland tenure in China: Comparing legal, actual and perceived security

Xianlei Ma, N. Heerink, S. Feng, X. Shi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines the magnitudes of legal security, actual security and perceived security of farmland tenure, and the causes of currently prevailing land tenure insecurity in rural China. Two farm household surveys conducted in the northwest of Gansu province in 2010 and in the northeast of Jiangxi province in 2011 are used as case studies. Although recent land tenure reforms have significantly improved legal tenure security, we find that farm households still experience substantial insecurity of actual and perceived land tenure. We argue that social security considerations, ambiguous formulations of laws, and village self-governance rules are three important underlying causes. Actual and perceived land tenure security is lowest in the case study region in Jiangxi province even though the share of off-farm income in rural household incomes is much larger in that region. We explain this finding from investments in land quality improvement made by rural households in the Gansu case study region, the larger per capita land resources in that region, and the limited social security provided by off-farm employment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-306
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


  • agricultural productivity growth
  • land rental markets
  • sub-saharan africa
  • property-rights
  • investment incentives
  • technical efficiency
  • economic-development
  • housing improvement
  • social-security
  • buenos-aires


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