Sociology Mind
2013. Vol.3, No.1, 52-55
Published Online January 2013 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Administrative Reforms of Rural Land in Transition
Economies: An Example in China and Vietnam
Nguyen Tan Phat
University of Economics & Law, Vietnam National University HCMC, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Received August 7th, 2012; re vised October 5th, 2012; accepted October 16th, 2012
The administrative issue of rural land has been filled with little concern by the State and scientists but
have had a great impact on rural community’s life in organization of agricultural production, space for
living and the guarantee of rights of land assets of farmers. Moreover, it also has a direct effect on the
State’s managerial efficiency in rural areas. Vietnam and China have some common points in politics,
particularly in policies of farm land and the process of reforms in rural land as well. This article is about
China’s experience and Vietnam’s reality in the economic transition period. Such matters of administra-
tive reforms in rural land in Vietnam and China can be referential lessons for nations with the same cir-
Keywords: Administrative Reforms; Rural Land; Public Ownership; Private Ownership; Rights of Land
Use; Transition Economy
Vietnam and China have some identical issues in politics and
economics in the period of economic transition, especially in
the rural land with many complicated problems the causes of
which have come from land policies. Administrative reforms in
rural land have been opening up great opportunities for farmers
to get their benefits. However, these reforms have shown some
social contradictions among farmers, farmers-local government;
farmers-enterprises. This needs more improvement to perfect
land laws and democratic process. China had carried out the
reforms in land laws before Vietnam, however the ones in
Vietnam is more innovative than China. The process of admi-
nistrative reforms of rural land in China started in 1978, the
authorities permitted farmers that: 1) Farmers had a right of
land use to purpose of agriculture production according to
promise mechanism1; and 2) In 2008, the authorities performed
a model of liberal transfer in right of land use, but it did a nar-
row size. Generally, up to now, farmers have not been a right of
trade in agriculture land yet.
Vietnam started the process of administrative reforms of ru-
ral land in 1981, as the authorities permitted farmers most of
rights in land use accepted private property. Farmers were per-
mitted to trade in agriculture land. Thus, agriculture land mar-
ket has developed since 1993 to led the development of Viet-
nam agriculture and improve the life of farmers better.
Data and Methodology
Data: The data of the article is based on: 1) The survey re-
sult of land officials in 81 communes in rural areas in 9 prov-
inces in South-east region, Highlands and the Mekong Delta in
Vietnam, which was carried out in a survey of administrative
reforms in rural land by the author in January, 2009; and 2) The
survey result of 544 farm households in January, 2009. The
survey provided 5 main pieces of information:
The rates of completing the general planning of land
Granting certificates of right of land use
Opinions of farmers in organization, management and plan-
ning land currently
Number of land officials
Methodology: The field of research in this article is political
economy, especially in the administrative reforms in rural land.
I use the method of statistics and description based on: 1) The
survey result of land officials in 81 communes in rural areas in
9 provinces in south-east region, highlands and the Mekong
Delta in January 2009; 2) The survey result of 544 farm house-
holds in January 2009; and 3) The content in land laws, land
policies in Vietnam, China during the period of economic tran-
Reforms of Land Mechanism in
Reality in China
Land in China formerly was under public ownership but due
to the social-economic growth in recent years, right of private
ownership of real estate in which right of land use is also in-
cluded has been accepted. It means land is the regime of whole-
people ownership and rights of land use have been given to
people. China’s current law has not asserted the admission of
right of private ownership. In city, real estate connects closely
with land. It means right of private ownership of a house is
admitted but not for that piece of land. In the country, there is
its own regime of agricultural laws. Farmers have rights to use
or explore for agricultural production based on land-fixed me-
chanism which is established through a contract between a
family household and its commune and district. After the pay
1Promise mechanism is a kind of contract between households with authori-
ties. After paying the contract to authorities, households had a right of land
use in the thirty years.
ment for the contract, farmers will have rights to use exactly
with the purpose of agricultural manufacture mentioned before
in the contract.
There is a difference between right of using urban land (with
the purpose of living) and rural land for living and exploring
The administrative division between rural and urban areas
indicates the difference of legal organization of land, leading
the distinction in freedom of performing that right: urban land
has right to be determined (exchange or purchasing) whereas
this can’t occur in rural areas—there is no right of determina-
tion (selling that right of use).
There has recently been a reform in Chinese law allowing to
make free decision for fixed-rate farm land. It means transfer-
ing is possible if obeying the laws in that province and has been
piloting with the permission of central government. In long run,
farm land should be transferred freely but with caution as the
authority is worried about using rural land for industry, leading
to a high risk of losing food security for the country with the
population of 1.3 billion.
Urban land is limited about the time of right of land use
stipulated by the contract. The State transfers the right of land
use to organizations and companies of real estate. According to
the Resolution of Chinese Government in 1988, real estate
companies pay to the State in just a fixed period of time but not
for ever. There are a wide variety of terms depending on the
purpose of use. Resolution in 1988 indicates that there is a
maximum time of 70 years for land of housing, 50 years for
industrial companies, factories and supermarkets and 40 years
for tourism land. The detailed speculations are in the decision
of giving land. The money of using land is not a sell-buy rela-
tion. So, a problem arises that how will it be if the time-limit of
giving land is up? Laws in 2007 about rights of properties had a
clause of prolonging the land use automatically but failed to
define in details so it was considered to be ambiguous and to
ease public opinion; besides, there are regulations in detail
about under-ground land, land onto the surface and above the
surface of that piece of land. To apartments, the explanation for
co-owning the basements, corridors is based on the agreement
signed in the contract between the customer and the company.
The entire agricultural land is public-owned. In another way,
it is possessed by local governments. A majority of farm land in
China is community-owned but land with canals, ditches and
roads belongs to the State.
Administrative Reforms of Rural Land in
Vietnam in Reality: Achievements
and Shortcomings
The heart of the reforms came from the innovation of poli-
cies of farm land. First, the Instruction 100 about giving a fixed
number of products to labor groups and laborers in agricultural
co-operatives2. Next, the Resolution 10 about innovation of
agri-economic management3. And finally the improvement of
land laws4 so that a system of land administration can be estab-
lished to operate the management and organization of farm land
production for farmers. Up to the present, there have been
nearly 400 legal documents involving the performance of land
laws, making this system become massive with numerous new
points (Phat & Dung, 2011).
The administrative system of land includes building up a sys-
tem of land files with land maps, certificate of land-use right,
administrative procedures, machinery and land officers. On
nation-wide scale, files of land survey and the certificates have
been basically completed for farm land, land for housing in the
countryside and land of frequent use for non-agriculture, but the
completion reaches about 65% for forest land and 55% for liv-
ing land in cities5. At 81 communes in 9 provinces in south-
east region, Highlands and the Mekong Delta, the rates of com-
pleting general planning of farm land are different. The perfect
completion 100% is 39.51%, between 80% and 90% is 33.33%,
from 50% to 70% is 11.11%, and a rather high rate of 16.05%
has not finished the general planning (Table 1).
According to this survey, 62.2% of farmland used for grow-
ing annual trees has been granted the certificate of right of land
use, reaching the level between 90% - 100% and 65.2% for
farm land for numerous-year trees (Table 2).
The system of farm land management in rural areas have
been innovated but have failed to meet the requirements in life
due to the inefficiency of organization and administration in
local areas, the shortcomings, and lack of explicitness that
cause urgent matters for farmers. There are 75% of opinions of
Northern farmers indicating that planning and land administra-
tion are unclear, this rate in highland is 64.71%, central part
53.66%, south-east region 35.66% and the Mekong Delta 23.33%
(Table 3).
The lack of explicitness in organization and management of
farm land in local areas in Vietnam and China is the root reason
causing disagreeableness for farmers, leading to lawsuits, com-
plaints and even social conflicts. The statistics indicates that
80% of these complaints in Vietnam and China are related to
unconvincingly administrative decisions of land of local gov-
Reasons of th e Shor tcomings
First, land laws have been improved but unclear in some
points. For example, there is still an ambiguity between the
right of land ownership and the right of land use. Government
wants to maintain supreme right of ownership which belongs to
State in the form of entire-people ownership in which the State
is the representative of the supreme owner in management and
and organization. Whereas in fact, people are given rights by l
4Vietnamese law has amended and added many times: 1987, 1992, 1998,
2001 and 2003 and it is pla nned to ke ep on amending in 2012.
5According to the report in front of the Parliament of the Minister of Envi-
ronment and Resources Pham Khoi Nguyen on November 6, 2007, land law
has been in valid since 2003, so has the granting of red books. As planned,
till the year of 2005, 64 provinces and cities must be completed. This point
of time was prolonged till 2006. However, till September 30, 2007, there
were only 37 local areas reaching 70% of the plan. Among them there were
11 provinces and cities finishing 90% of granting red books and 27 left had
half of work incompleted. At some places the red books have finished but
eople did not get them yet. Some places like Hanoi where there were only
23.8% of organizations granted red books; Bac Giang 37.08%. The instruc-
tion documents of granting red books from 2003 to 2007 were 40 from
overnment to ministries and branches.
2The content is guiding co-operatives how to give a fixed number of prod-
ucts to family households and laborers; and allows members of the coopera-
tive to invest their capital, strength of labor in the given land and enjoy all
products whic h are fulfilled over criteria.
3The main content is giving land back to farmers. It means that farmer
households are given farm land and admitted that they are an inde
economic unit in production and only submit tax to the State in accordance
with the law.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 53
Table 1.
The rates of completing the general planning of land in 81 communes
in 9 provinces in south-east region , Highlands and the Mekong Delta .
Rates of completion 100% 80% - 90% 50% - 70% Incompleted
Numbers of
32 27 9 13
Rates (%) 39.51 33.33 11.11 16.05
Note: Source: Nguyen Tan Phat (2010), The survey result of land officials in 81
commun e s i n r u ral areas in January, 2009.
Table 2.
Granting certificates of right of land use in communes in 9 provinces in
south-east region, highland and the Mekong Delta.
Land for annual trees Land for
numerous-year trees
Levels of granting
certificate of
land-use right Numbers of
communes Rates (%) Numbers of
communes Rates (%)
90% - 100% 46 62.2 45 65.21
70% - 89% 18 24.3 15 21.73
50% - 69% 5 6.75 5 7.24
<50% 5 6.75 4 5.82
Note: Source: Nguyen Tan Phat (2010), The survey result of officials of land
survey in 81 communes in rural areas in January, 2009.
Table 3.
Opinions of farmers in organization, management and planning land
Parts or regions Good Not good, weak Still have sh ortcomings
and unclear ness in
The North 12.5% 29.17% 75%
The central part 34.14% 21.95% 53.66%
Highland 21.01% 27.73% 64.71%
South-east 45.90% 44.54% 35.66%
The Mekong Delta 64.44% 28.89% 23.33%
Note: Source: Nguyen Tan Phat (2010), The survey result of 544 farm households
in January, 2009.
law, which nearly reach the right of ownership. They have a
strong desire to possess the perfectly the entire right but failed
due to the mechanism of policy. Local governments are given
by law the right of management but not be tied down to duties.
This is the key point leading to haphazard decisions regardless
of public opinion, causing severe conflicts between people and
the governments during the past time.
Second, land officials in the local levels (wards and com-
munes) are insufficient in quantity and bad at their quality. So,
their performance of policies have difficulties and confusion,
leading to the arbitrariness of planning and transferring the
purpose of land use, the loose of management, and even giving
a hand to speculators, etc., causing disagreement in public and a
direct impact on the reasonable benefits of farmers. According
to the survey in 81 communes in 9 provinces, the case of
merely 1 official in charge of land survey in each commune
makes up 71.6%; a number of communes with 2 officials (it is
the official reinforced from the Department of Resources and
Environment) is 23.46%; only 2.47% of with 3 - 4 officials
(they are wards next to big urban areas like Thu Duc district
and Ho Chi Minh city ( Table 4 ).
In reality, at many communes and wards, the number of offi-
cials are just few a nd work based on their own experience, thus
when facing new issues like carrying out compensation, assis-
tance and arrangement of relocation, they show little knowl-
edge of communicative skills and learning people’s thoughts
and expectation; they solve problems just based on their feel-
ings haphazardly. In another way, they are hardly scientific in
resolving new and complicated jobs. This influences on the
work’s progress and creates passive manners like bureaucracy,
causing disagreement leading to complaints and lawsuits of
people. So weak are they that they frequently make regrettable
mistakes when acting as advisors to superiors about planning,
investigation and solving of land disputes.
Referential Solutions to Enhance the
Efficiency of Administrative
Reforms of Rural Land
Reforms of agricultural land policy should be comprehensive
in all aspects such as law, benefits of State, people and business
1) Rights of ownership and land use must be clear and in the
direction of admitting and ensuring rights of property owner-
ship on the farmers’ land; 2) Duties and responsibilities of local
governments must be speculated in their administrative deci-
sions of land; and administrative conflicts of land between local
administration, farmers and enterprises should be solved based
on administrative private law. It means that it is necessary to set
up administrative courts of land independent with local admini-
stration in the aim of bringing impartial decisions; and 3) Du-
ties and benefits of the enterprises involving farm land must be
clarified about profits and communal responsibilities.
The work of land officials in local areas must be paid atten-
tion to quality and quantity
Their competence plays a key role in performing land poli-
cies exactly to what the Government desires, so it is vital that it
be improved. They should be provided with knowledge of fix-
ing a price and calculating land tax; launching campaigns of
educational propagandas of law; training officials’ ways of
reconciling and solving disputes unofficially; planning land use
and basic concepts of economics.
It is advisable for natural resources and environment offices
to have training classes of special topics about compensation,
assistance and relocation; topics of merging land or exchanging
pieces of land; topics of practical skills of guiding registration
procedures and granting certificates of right of land use; topics
of planning related to environment and sustainably rural growth,
There should be a scientific calculation of the number of land
officials depending on the land surface, the number of house-
holds, structure of farm land, land for housing and the forms of
work in local areas (Table 5).
Application of high technology should be used to manage
rural land
With the high-tech development nowadays, it is essential to
apply computer software programs for land administration such
as registration of granting certificates of land use, transferring,
planning and planning announcement, etc. the information of
which must be announced officially in wards or communes.
People can access the internet to catch necessary contents so
that they could know how much their surface land is, on which
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. 55
Table 4.
Number of land officials in 81 communes in 9 provinc es in south-east region, hi ghl and and the Mekong Delta.
4 Officials/Commune Rate (%) 3 Officials/CommuneRate (%)2 Officials/CommuneRate (%) 1 Official/Commun eRate (%)
Number of officials
(people)/commune 2 2.47 2 2.47 19 23.46 58 71.6
Note: Source: Nguyen Tan Pha t (2010), The survey result of officials o f land survey in 81 communes in rural areas in January, 2009.
Table 5.
Script: Base to calculate the number of land officials in each ward and commune.
Criteria Minimum: 1 land
official/ward or com mune
Land surface (ha):
0 for a certain amount of
land; 1, 2, 3 or more for
higher rate
Number of people in the
family (total number of
people/war d, commune) :
0 for a certain number of
people in the families; 1 , 2,
3 or more for greater rate
Kinds of jobs resol v ed:
Disputes, land complaints,
land corruption: 0 f or no
problems; 1 , 2, 3 or more
if there are problems
Total number of land
Criteria added (1) (2) (3) (4)
= (1) + (2) + (3) + (4)
Note: Source : Calcul a ted by the a uthor.
location it is on the planning map, which pieces of land is being
disputed and how the disputes are going on, etc. All can be
restored and gained publicity. It is a good idea for tax submis-
sion and registration for confirmation to be computerized. Cur-
rently, they can be piloted in local areas with good conditions
of qualified land officials and well-equipped machines and then
expanded to far-distance areas. So, there will be an informative
connection of land between provinces, cities from central au-
thority to local areas. The fact that each piece of land can be
encoded with a certain sign will help management and land
information become more effective and avoid land speculation.
Only type the full name of a certain person, and the present
documents of their land will be shown on the computer and
indicated clearly how much land they own and where it is or
whether he is a kind of person purely buying land for produc-
tion or just buying to sell it after that.
Supervision and criticism of the performance of land policy
should be promoted from the community and non-governmental
1) The roles of media, television have a great effect on en-
suring law and benefits of the 2 involved sides; 2) Organiza-
tions of protection of human rights and personal dignity should
have their own voices to ensure the values of basic rights of
people and enterprises; and 3) Communities of farmers and
enterprises must do their citizen’s duties in performing policy
and know how to gain their reasonable benefits by notifying
them to state agencies.
The real of administrative reforms of land in rural areas in
China and Vietnam showed that if improving of effect of ad-
ministrative reforms of land in rural areas, the authorities have
to perfect the land law according to the land private property of
farmers and permit people participating real estate market to
transfer their agriculture land. Beside that, the staff in the man-
agement of land rural areas must be strongly, effectively and
having public ethics.
The process of administrative reforms of land in rural areas
should connect with the process of developing law, economy
and social democracy and require the 2 involved sides to bend
over backwards to head for the sustainable growth, improve-
ment of law system, the explicit performance of policy and the
guarantee of reasonable benefits f or people.
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