Sally Sargeson and Song Yu The changing agency of women is one of the main mediators of economic and social change, and its determination as well as consequences closely relate to many of the central features of the development process. (Sen 1999: 202) INTRODUCTION Urban expansion is one of the defining features of development in contemporary China. The level of urbanization increased from 17.9 per cent in 1978 to almost 50 per cent in 2010. By 2050, with the anticipated inclusion of another few hundreds of millions of people in urban areas, the government plans that the urban residential population will comprise 65 per cent of the total population (Lin, George 2009: 204; People’s Daily 22 December 2010). To date, urban expansion has been facilitated by governments’ expropriation, development and leasing of rural land. These transactions have generated revenue for municipal and sub-municipal governments, attracted investment, spurred economic growth and created jobs (Po 2008). Yet in most regions of China, village collectives, prohibited from acting as principals in land markets and unable even to negotiate land prices with expropriating governments, have received comparatively modest compensation payments for the loss of their land to development (Zhou Feizhou 2007). In October 2008, China’s leadership signalled that governments’ rights to expropriate land progressively would be curtailed, while village collective organizations within the boundaries of municipal construction plans would be allowed to transact land and retain, invest and distribute profits from land development (CCP 2008). This decision foreshadowed a significant devolution of decision making...
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