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July 31, 2020

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Land reform injects vitality into rural development

In the scorching summer heat, some 2,000 tourists swarm into a new village resort in northeast China’s Jilin Province every day to enjoy the cool breeze, green landscape and rural-type accommodation.

Covering an area of 12 hectares, the Jiuyushanju resort, which opened in June, was built on unused construction land and where deserted houses once stood in Ma’anshan Village, Jiutai District, in the provincial capital Changchun.

Jiutai District is among the 33 county-level pilot areas for rural land reform in China. Initiated in 2015, the reform allows rural collective construction land to enter the market and the transfer of rural residential land, which has injected vitality into rural development.

“The reform has solved a major problem of securing a vast tract of land to develop rural tourism,” said Wang Yaguang, chairman of an ecological agriculture development company in Jilin that runs the resort.

In China, urban land is owned by the state and rural land is normally under collective ownership. While gradual reforms saw the trading of urban land evolve into a vigorous property market, land in the countryside remains largely static.

To narrow the urban-rural gap and promote integrated development, the government has been taking gradual steps to build a fairer mechanism to allow market transactions of rural construction land, leading to reform in the pilot areas.

Wang Wenyuan, head of the natural resources bureau of Jiutai District, said the reform has broadened the land supply channel, and companies can bid for, lease, or purchase rural land, increasing the possibility for urban capital to flow into the countryside and contribute to rural vitalization.

The Jiuyushanju resort brings Ma’anshan Village over 2 million yuan (US$285,144) for the land transaction as well as nearly 300 jobs.

After the resort was built, local villager Zhou Jinxia, 28, decided to return home and now works in a cafe inside the resort.

Zhou and her husband, a construction worker in the expansion project of the resort, bring home some 10,000 yuan a month, almost the amount they earned as migrant workers in the past.

“I was tired of leaving my children back home and spending much of our salary on house rents in cities,” she said.

Zhou’s family also received more than 100,000 yuan for their farmland taken over to build the resort.

“I would rather work in the resort than toil in the field, considering a barista job earns me much more,” she said, adding that she will have income even in winter, a low season for farming but a peak period for snow and ice tourism in northeast China.

To make up for the occupied farmland, the district will have to turn the same amount of construction land into farmland elsewhere to ensure that the minimum amount of arable land is maintained, said Wang with Jiutai’s natural resources bureau, adding that all land transactions have to be approved by villagers.

Figures show 222 tracts of rural collective construction land totaling 101.5 hectares entered the market over the past five years in Jiutai District, with a total transaction value of 151.58 million yuan.

In Toudaogou Village of the district, a corn-processing plant was built on the former site of the village committee. In addition to providing the land transaction fee of 130,000 yuan and 50 jobs, the plant also procures corn grown on 100 hectares from local villagers.

“We will offer them seeds and organic fertilizers for the farming, and the quality corn they plant will add about 5,000 yuan worth of yield to each hectare of farmland,” said Li Xuesong, chairman of the plant.

By the end of 2018, more than 6,000 hectares of collective construction land was transacted and the deserted homesteads of 140,000 households were vacated in 33 pilot areas across China, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The latest Land Management Law, which took effect on January 1 this year, has had related items revised, allowing transactions in rural collective construction land across the country.

Wang Dawei, a professor with the Jilin Agricultural University, said the reform that spreads from the pilot areas to other parts of the country will effectively lead to the use of idle properties in rural areas, which will bring more assets, talent and vitality to rural vitalization.


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