Collective action in implementing top-down land policy: the case of Chengdu, China

Pingyang Liu, Neil Ravenscroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rapid urbanization in China has led to the increasing scarcity of land suitable and available for construc-tion. Concurrently, rural depopulation has resulted in many vacant properties, including farmhousesand buildings. In order to address this issue, a national land transfer policy has been implemented sincethe early 2000s in which vacant rural properties are returned to agriculture in return for similar areasof peri-urban land being released for construction. While there have been many different approachesto policy implementation, most commentators agree that successful schemes are characterized by theinvolvement of local people. As yet, however, there has been little research into how such local collectiveaction is organized, and whether it is really possible to address top-down policies through local, bottom-up, action. Based on a case study of the earliest pilot program in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, we seek todemonstrate that the top-down nature of China’s land transfer policy does not mean that it is necessarilybest implemented in a top-down manner. Indeed, we suggest that effective collective action is crucialto the realization of such policies. In particular, the case study indicates that with the empowermentof villagers to participate in the policy process it is possible to achieve a broad consensus on the bestapproach to addressing the problems, with community interests protected and properly monitoring. Inoffering a new way of understanding collective action, we conclude that even in cases where a top-downapproach is imposed, communities can be empowered to act collectively in implementing the policy fromthe bottom-up.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-52
Number of pages8
JournalLand Use Policy
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

© 2017. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license


  • Collective action
  • Rural construction land
  • Bottom up approach
  • Community empowerment


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