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Nanhai Tries to Reshape Collective Ownership

12-03 00:00 《财经》杂志 《财经》杂志

By staff reporter Shu Taifeng

The Communist Party of China (CPC) established the Party branch system in villages over 60 years ago, reconstructing the political order in rural areas and gaining leadership and control over villages at the base level.

The Third Plenary Session of the 11th CPC over 30 years ago opened the curtain of rural reform. Under the premise of adhering to collective ownership of land and keeping the village Party branch leadership system intact, and through the separation of ownership and land use rights, the session mobilized hundreds of millions of farmers' enthusiasm for production and ushered in a period of rural development and prosperity.

Since then, rural areas have undergone structural change; this, along with the large-scale flow of the rural population and labor force to urban areas and from the inland to coastal areas, has increasingly posed challenges to collective ownership and Party branch village governance. China’s large peasant population has made establishing a rural governance system during this transition period an urgent task.

Collective ownership is largely impacted by population movements, and membership qualifications constantly shift as the population changes, thereby bringing adjustments to land share dividend rights and changes to the satisfaction of land rights. Vague membership qualifications have resulted in unclear rights to income.

As one of the "four tigers" of Guangdong Province - the economic development of Nanhai District in the city of Foshan is rooted in the rich soil of the rural collective economy. Today, however, a conflict triggered by rural equity dividends has affected governance at the base level. From 2009-2011, more than 80 percent of agriculture-related petitions in Nanhai District were related to the rural collective economy.

According to official statistics from Nanhai, apart from collective economic organizations, 13 categories of people want to return to the collective system, the most typical of which are married women. Others include military personnel and college students who have left the villages. In Nanhai District, the 13 categories represent a total of 50,000 people. Most attempts to petition higher authorities for the right to rural equity dividends have been peaceful, though outbreaks of violence have occurred on some occasions.

Village governance is not only troubled by collective organization membership problems, there is also a bigger issue of competition for collective assets. Under a system in which the Party, government administration and the economy are inextricably linked, whoever holds administrative power in rural areas also controls the economic rights of the collective. According to regulations in Nanhai, the rural societies and associations of collective economies in villages have sole management rights over collective economic organizations. But in reality, these rights are closely tied together with village committees and Party organizations, and the village committee head is often also the village Party branch secretary and association president of the collective economy.

The economic benefits offered by the collective economy have spurred corrupt behavior among village cadres. The Wukan Incident which occurred in Lufeng City, Guangdong Province in 2011 was triggered by the unauthorized sale of land by village cadres. In fact, similar events have also occurred in Nanhai.

Since the beginning of 2011, as a leader in rural collective economic development, Nanhai District has tried to follow market economy principles to transform the collective economy and remold the increasingly imbalanced base level governance structure as part of a new round of comprehensive rural reform featuring “separation of political governance and economic management.”

Liu Shouying, deputy minister and researcher at the Rural Economy Research Department of the Development Research Center of the State Council, said that if authorities do not implement the modern transformation of villages' governance structure in economically developed villages, after a period of economic prosperity, the more developed these areas become, the more troubles they will face.

Liu added that the separation of political governance and economic management at the village level should be implemented on the basis of clear property rights and asset management modes. Party branches should exercise political, economic, social stability and oversight functions, village committees provide public goods and services, and enterprises manage the village economy.

Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2013-12-01/113631449.html

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