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Legislative support for urban land-use control in China


  • Sumei Zhang
  • Kenneth Pearlman


China is in a transitional period with a decentralized economy operated within a highly centralized governmental structure. With a strong statutory law tradition, the federal government has created a very complicated set of statutes to regulate land-use tenure, land-use rights allocation, and planning activities. Local governments regulate daily land-use transfer activities within the federal framework. China is now looking for a land-use management tool that can effectively regulate individual activities at the local level. The statutory plan framework (local-level land-use plans similar to zoning ordinances) is one of the attempts. Shenzhen is the first city to adopt statutory plans as local bylaws and its experience provides other cities with a good example of how to incorporate public participation into land-use management. However, the experience in Shenzhen also exposes a number of problems related to the overall distribution of power in the current federal structure. With most cities lacking power to issue local bylaws, the statutory plan concept is not universally applicable. China should at least delegate the full power to regulate local land-use activities to local communities. Effective control of local land-use activities calls for such decentralization. Further, the existence of a weak judicial and extremely strong administrative system is another issue of concern. Both systems need to be further reformed to achieve a balanced distribution of power between administrative and judicial implementation of land-use regulation.

Suggested Citation

  • Sumei Zhang & Kenneth Pearlman, 2009. "Legislative support for urban land-use control in China," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 27(3), pages 399-412, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envirc:v:27:y:2009:i:3:p:399-412

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