chapter  6
19 Pages

From village commons to shareholding corporation: collective property reforms in a Chinese village


This chapter examines collective action problems in the management of collectively owned enterprises in Chinese village communities during the post-Mao reform era, and the property rights institutions that have been created in response to those problems. The rapid development of communityowned enterprises at the township and village level is a unique feature of China’s transition to a market economy. While the rural reforms inaugurated in the early 1980s dismantled the Maoist People’s Commune system and allowed a greater role to be played by individuals and markets in the rural economy, collective property did not simply disappear. Townships and villages, which replaced the commune and brigade as the rural administrative units, assumed the ownership and management of land, most collective enterprises, infrastructure and services. This collective property comprised the village ‘commons’. Townships and villages capitalised on opportunities brought about by market reform to expand their commons. Now, in many parts of China, it is the commons that is the major source of employment, income, and such collective goods as social welfare and infrastructure funding (Oi 1990; 1998).