Local States, Markets, and the Geography of Political Economy and Land in China
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation examines the evolution and role of land as a fiscal asset in China since the onset of reforms in 1978. Research presented in this dissertation specifically examines: 1) the role of land markets and land use rights in China's local political economy and local bureaucrat fiscal behavior; 2) the evolution and development of land finance as local government strategy for maximizing revenues in the absence of other sources; and 3) the extent to which neoliberalism explains growth and change in the value and transacting of land use rights in the Chinese context. Findings from this analysis show that the local government behaves in ways consistent with revenue maximization. Land, as an available, immobile asset made available for expropriation through an ambiguous legal and institutional framework, is a coveted asset of local bureaucrats and exploited to support local fiscal revenue needs. Land markets, or the monetized transfer of use rights, are organized in ways that allow the local state to capture economic surplus. Land markets thus represent the state's leveraging of market mechanisms to achieve state aims of revenue and economic capture, rather than a local state embrace of a market logic to governance and resource allocation. Exogenous changes in China's political economy and central-local relations with respect to land have catalyzed new forms of land finance, ranging from the collateralizing and leveraging of land assets to expanding the local state's indirect revenues into bank loans and bond capital purposed for local state infrastructure investments, to elaborate debt restructuring schemes as is in the case of Yufu Capital Management Corporation in Chongqing. The findings from this research expand our understanding of land finance and the legacy effects of past institutions on current period political economy and state behavior. While economic geography has focused much attention on the behavior of firms, the case of China broadens this field of research into the behavior and incentives of the local state in the fostering and operation of markets. Moreover, evidence presents challenges to neoliberalism as the primary paradigm through which to understand and interpret China's economic growth and class divisions over the reform era. Contrary to the narrative of the state retreating and embracing the market, Chinese local government bureaucrats have leveraged market mechanisms to expand and strengthen the local state.
- Geography