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Through an in-depth empirical investigation, this article discloses for the first time how and why land reform programs in the name of empowering and enriching farmers have been serving the purpose of Chinese local governments to compromise the rights revolution in the Chinese national expropriation regime. The concept of “transferable development rights” (TDRs) is simple: development rights from one parcel of land are lifted up and transferred to another. Upon a detailed examination of land tickets in Chongqing and Chengdu, the southwestern Chinese application of TDRs, this article reveals that local governments in both cities have created schemes of land tickets to circumvent the increasingly stringent national regulation of local governments’ expropriation power. But by reframing such practices as for rural rights and welfare, they have successfully gained acquiescence and even approval from the central government, eventually leading to the creation of a national market of land tickets. This case study demonstrates the “maximally protean and easily reformable” nature of the “bundle of sticks” and cautions against expanding the role of TDRs in China’s land reform.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Land reform, China, Land use--Law and legislation, Development rights transfer, Right of property--Government policy