Land transfer and determinats of land-use decision making in rural Sichuan, China

PhD Project

Chinas rapid economic development in the last few decades was accompanied by massive waves of domestic migration from rural to urban areas. At the same time, population control policies kept birth rates low. Combined, this caused a rapid decline and aging of the rural population and a sharp decrease of the agricultural labour force. While this may have caused a decline in the number of farms and the abandonment of agricultural land in free-market conditions, structural change in Chinese agriculture was impeded by insecure land use rights legal constraints on land market transactions. The Chinese government therefore experiments with land rights reforms with potentially profound impacts on agricultural development. The aim of this project is to investigate the consequences of land market liberalization on household-level land use decisions. Household survey data from Sichuan, one experimental-zone of the Chinese government for a rural land reform, serves to calibrate boosted regression trees that quantify the determinants of land rental decisions.  The results suggest that plots with valuable technical infrastructure were more likely to be rented out, while policy measures largely failed to incentivize land transactions. Economic and political incentives seem insufficient to stimulate increases in farm size by increasing rentals. These insights contribute to a better understanding of the potential effects of land market liberalizations and their impact on land-system properties in rural China.