Asian Cities - Projects


The Impact of Land Rights on Sustainable Urbanisation in China

Rapid urbanization is shaping new Asian cities in the context of high population density and land scarcity, as Asia is the densest continent of the world. For the developing countries endowed with natural resources on a per capita basis far below the world average, social and environmental sustainability depends much on efficient wealth creation in the first place. Inefficient economic development wastes resources unnecessarily, and the poor economy adds to tension in social relations and pressure on the environment. For high-density low-income Asian cities, the structure of land rights has a significant impact on their sustainable urbanization. The structure of property rights therefore matter for the performance of land markets. Property rights over land are a crucial mechanism coordinating the land market for the collective benefits.

This research will investigate land developments and land conversion in China during its rapid urbanization, and adopts the case study approach. It aims at deep understanding of urbanization process in the urban peripheral areas by intensive field investigation of two cases. The two cases of Kunshan and Nanhai are selected in the consideration of their different state-market relations and regional variations in the developmental status. Kunshan is located in Changjiang Delta where the state usually dominates. Nanhai is an economically dynamic locale in the Pearl River Delta where the village collective leads the socioeconomic transformation. The comparative approach shall shed light on variations of state-market coalition and its implication for sustainable urbanization.

Rapidly urbanizing China through land development is an ideal site to test the modernization theory, which posits that the process of urbanization, industrialization and so on leads to wider citizen participation. Urbanization and attendant social changes in education, communication etc. give rise to the emergence of civic consciousness and increased political participation. In the context of China, the mode of urbanization, either through rural bottom-up urbanization or urban top-down city expansion, is likely to have an impact on the extent of citizen participation. The extent of citizen participation in land development processes in turn influences social equity in terms of the redistribution of land wealth.

For further details, please contact:

Main Researcher

Assoc Prof ZHU Jieming

Department of Real Estate & University Scholars Program, NUS


Team Members


Ms YEW Chiew Ping

Research Associate, East Asian Institute, NUS

 Curriculum Vitae