China Urban Development Discussion Series: "Local States of Play: Land Politics and Chinese Capitalism"

Speaker: Dr. Meg Rithmire, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School; Discussant: Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier, Professor of Geography and Regional Planning, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning               

From the vantage point of 2013, it is abundantly clear that land and real estate are central to Chinese political economy. Real estate and related sectors contribute nearly 20% of China's GDP, and contestation over land control--between peasants and local governments, urban residents and local governments, and levels of government--constitutes the locus of political conflict in China. Yet this dependence on and conflict over the exchange value of land was not inevitable in China. Based on a book project that investigates the practice of property rights in cities in Northern China in the 1980s and 1990s, Prof. Rithmire will provide a narration of land policy as it evolved in the reform period. Far from an accidental and unrelated consequence, the "discovery" of land as a vehicle for capital accumulation under state ownership made possible a dramatic reconfiguration of central-local relations in China in the 1990s and presented the central government with a new tool with which it could indirectly manage the macroeconomy. Viewed in this perspective, conflict over land is best interpreted as an outcome of choices the Chinese state made about managing land rather than a necessary outcome of unclear property rights institutions.

Complimentary lunch will be served at 12:05 pm in room 9-555; talk starts at 12:30 pm and ends by 2 pm in room 9-354.


Open to: the general public

Sponsor(s): Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Graduate Student Life Grants, China Urban Development

For more information, contact:
Shan Jiang

[Image: By Ruan Yulin from]