ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Property Rights and the Social Costs of Transition and Development in China

There is considerable ferment over property rights in China today. This paper briefly explores important areas in which social unrest over property rights is currently under way, beginning with a discussion of the general debate about this issue in China, and then moving on to consider such rights in agriculture, intellectual property rights, and property rights in the environmental field. The objective is to indicate how the property rights debate overlaps the argument about social costs of transition, including widening income inequality, environmental devastation, and so on.

T he property rights rgime in China was set in ux when the Partys Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee unleashed the transition to a market economy in late 1978. De-collectivisation of agriculture began immediately thereafter. There have been few dull moments since, and property rights remain an area of contention today. The growing social costs of transition and development intersect in many respects with the property rights question as broadly conceived and understood (Stiglitz 2004). This paper briey explores several of the important areas in which property rights ferment is currently under way, beginning with a discussion of the general debate about this issue in China, and then moving on to consider property rights in agriculture, intellectual property rights, and property rights in the environmental eld. In all three areas, the objective of this discussion is to indicate how the property rights debate overlaps the debate about social costs of transition, including widening income inequality, environmental devastation, and weakening of the public health system and other forms of social protection.

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