Scaling Up and Cleaning Up the Farmland



As self-sufficiency is no longer a practical policy goal for China, the Chinese government has shifted the focus from boosting annual grain output to ensuring grain production capacity and improving the overall competitiveness of the country’s agricultural sector. To achieve this objective, China is determined to address two major problems associated with its farmland. The first is fragmented, small-scale subsistence farms. The second is farmland degradation and pollution. Despite the central government’s resolve to scale up and clean up the country’s farmland, the impact of such measures on China’s food security and agricultural development remains widely debated. This chapter intends to review the government’s efforts to address these two major farmland problems via scaling up and cleaning up. It is also an attempt to examine the potential implications of these efforts for China’s own agricultural sector and the spillover effects on the global food system.


Farmland Degradation Farmland Transfer Agricultural Development Bank Of China (ADBC) Professional Farmers Cadmium Cadmium 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Agricultural Machinery Information Center of China. (2017). “去库存”启示:农机供需矛盾急需化解. Retrieved January 8, 2018, from
  2. Bloomberg News. (2017, September 7). Wrapped in plastic, China’s farmland is suffering: Quick take Q&A. Retrieved from
  3. Brandt, L., & Rawski, T. G. (2008). China’s great economic transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, C., & Chen, K. (1999). Land reform, household specialisation and rural development in China. St. Lucia: School of Natural and Rural Systems Management University of Queensland.Google Scholar
  5. Cai, Y. (2003). Collective ownership or cadres’ ownership? The non-agricultural use of farmland in China. The China Quarterly, 175, 662–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cai, H. (2017, September 16). 蔡海龙:从粮食安全与种粮收益看粮食适度规模经营. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from
  7. Chen, X. (2017, September 26). 陈锡文:不加强农业国际竞争力农民生存空间会越来越小. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from
  8. Chen, F., & Davis, J. (1998). Land reform in rural China since the mid-1980s. Land Reform, Land Settlement, and Cooperatives, 6(2), 123–137.Google Scholar
  9. Cheng, L., Zhang, H., & Liu, Z. (2016). 28省数据证实:农地确权促进流转提高土地价值. Management World, (1), 88–98.Google Scholar
  10. China Daily. (2013, March 10). Rural reform ensures grain security. Retrieved January 5, 2018, from
  11. China Daily. (2017, December 15). New type of agricultural operating entity. Retrieved January 1, 2018, from
  12. Delang, C. O. (2017). China’s soil pollution and degradation problems. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  13. Ding, J., Huang, J., Jia, X., Bai, J., Boucher, S., & Carter, M. (2015). Direct farm, production base, traceability and food safety in China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 14(11), 2380–2390. Scholar
  14. Duan, Q., Lee, J., Liu, Y., Chen, H., & Hu, H. (2016). Distribution of heavy metal pollution in surface soil samples in China: A graphical review. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 97(3), 303–309. Scholar
  15. Fan, L. (2017, October 12). China founds pesticide office to combat pollution, overuse. Retrieved November 7, 2017, from
  16. Fan, S., Kanbur, R., Wei, S.-J., & Zhang, X. (2014). The Oxford companion to the economics of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gong, J., Sun, S., & Yang, C. (2014). Modern distance education technology and professional farmers cultivation. In International conference on computer science and network security (CSNS 2014). DEStech Publications, Inc.Google Scholar
  18. Guo, J. (2016, March 3). 习近平“藏粮于地、藏粮于技”传递啥新理念? Retrieved from
  19. Han, C. (2017, November 17). 韩长赋再谈土地三权分置:充满政治智慧的制度. Retrieved November 18, 2017, from
  20. Hayward, J. (2017). Beyond the ownership question: who will till the land? The new debate on China’s agricultural production. Critical Asian Studies, 49(4), 523–545. Scholar
  21. Hornby, L. (2016, November 3). China land reform opens door to corporate farming. Retrieved November 12, 2017, from
  22. Hu, Z., Zhang, Q. F., & Donaldson, J. A. (2017). Farmers’ cooperatives in China: A typology of fraud and failure. The China Journal, 78(1), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang, Z. (2015). Farmer cooperatives in China. Development and diversification. In S. Fan, R. Kanbur, S. Wei, & Zhang (Eds.), The Oxford companion to the economics of China (pp. 325–329). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Huang, J., & Yang, G. (2017). Understanding recent challenges and new food policy in China. Global Food Security-Agriculture Policy Economics and Environment, 12, 119–126. Scholar
  25. Huang, J., Qiu, H., & Wang, X. (2012). Small-scale farmers in China in the face of modernisation and globalisation. London: International Institute for Environment and Development. Retrieved from
  26. Ito, J., Bao, Z., & Ni, J. (2016). Land rental development via institutional innovation in rural Jiangsu, China. Food Policy, 59, 1–11. Scholar
  27. Ji, X., Rozelle, S., Huang, J., Zhang, L., & Zhang, T. (2016). Are China’s farms growing? China & World Economy, 24(1), 41–62. Scholar
  28. Jiang, Y. (2014, April 24). 财政三年投9万亿“三农”资金管理漏洞待堵. Retrieved November 15, 2017, from
  29. Kasirajan, S., & Ngouajio, M. (2012). Polyethylene and biodegradable mulches for agricultural applications: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 32(2), 501–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Li, R. (2017a, October 24). Lease extensions pledged for half-billion rural residents – Caixin global. Retrieved October 27, 2017, from
  31. Li, Z. (2017b). Reform and development of agriculture in China. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li, Y., & Yang, M. (2018, January 3). 中国农机工业遭遇“成长的烦恼.” Retrieved January 8, 2018, from
  33. Li, G., Feng, Z., You, L., & Fan, L. (2013). Re-examining the inverse relationship between farm size and efficiency: The empirical evidence in China. China Agricultural Economic Review, 5(4), 473–488. Scholar
  34. Li, Z., Ma, Z., van der Kuijp, T. J., Yuan, Z., & Huang, L. (2014). A review of soil heavy metal pollution from mines in China: Pollution and health risk assessment. Science of The Total Environment, 468469(Supplement C), 843–853. Scholar
  35. Lin, J. (1992). Rural reforms and agricultural growth in China. American Economic Review, 82, 34–51.Google Scholar
  36. Lin, L., Ye, Z., Gan, M., Shahtahmassebi, A. R., Weston, M., Deng, J., et al. (2017). Quality perspective on the dynamic balance of cultivated land in Wenzhou, China. Sustainability, 9(1), 95. Scholar
  37. Lipton, M., & Saghai, Y. (2017). Food security, farmland access ethics, and land reform. Global Food Security, 12, 59–66. Scholar
  38. Liu, Q. (2013, August 5). 刘奇:中国失地农民面临四大难题. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from
  39. Liu, Y., Fang, F., & Li, Y. (2014). Key issues of land use in China and implications for policy making. Land Use Policy, 40(Supplement C), 6–12. Scholar
  40. Luo, Q., Andreas, J., & Li, Y. (2016). Grapes of wrath: Twisting arms to get villagers to cooperate with agribusiness in China. The China Journal, 77, 27–50. Scholar
  41. Ma, W., & Abdulai, A. (2017). The economic impacts of agricultural cooperatives on smallholder farmers in rural China. Agribusiness, 33(4), 537–551. Scholar
  42. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2013, February 1). 三、创新农业生产经营体制,稳步提高农民组织化程度. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from
  43. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2016, June 30). 探索实行耕地轮作休耕制度试点. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from
  44. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2017a, January 23). 农业部与农发行合作支农成效显著. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from
  45. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2017b, September 8). 农业部新闻办举行新闻发布会,介绍“耕地轮作休耕制度试点进展”情况. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from
  46. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2017c, October 12). 培育中国农业的新未来-党的十八大以来新型职业农民培育成就综述. Retrieved January 2, 2018, from
  47. Ministry of Agriculture, P.R. China. (2017d, November 20). 农业部副部长叶贞琴在国家重点龙头企业负责人培训班上强调龙头企业要成为推动乡村振兴的带动者. Retrieved January 3, 2018, from
  48. Ministry of Land and Resources, P.R. China. (2015, December 28). 土地流转“非粮化” 必须遏制. Retrieved January 5, 2018, from
  49. Otsuka, K. (2013). Food insecurity, income inequality, and the changing comparative advantage in world agriculture. Agricultural Economics, 44(s1), 7–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pan, J. (2011). Specialized farmers’ cooperatives in China: The interpretation of the data of their development. China Rural Survey, 6, 2–11.Google Scholar
  51. Payer, C. (1979). The World Bank and the small farmers. Journal of Peace Research, 16(4), 293–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. People’s Daily. (2016, May 25). “三农”发展 “改”是动力(学习贯彻习近平总书记农村改革座谈会重要讲话精神). People’s Daily, p. 2.Google Scholar
  53. Pham, P. (2017, November 17). How can a green Asia make you rich? Retrieved November 24, 2017, from
  54. Rada, N., Wang, C., & Qin, L. (2015). Subsidy or market reform? Rethinking China’s farm consolidation strategy. Food Policy, 57, 93–103. Scholar
  55. Reuters. (2017a, June 22). China needs patience to fight costly war against soil pollution: Government. Reuters. Retrieved from
  56. Reuters. (2017b, December 16). China will cut, remove export tariffs on some steel, fertilizer. Reuters. Retrieved from
  57. SAIN. (2013). China agri-food news digest. London: SAIN. Retrieved from
  58. Sargeson, S. (2013). Violence as development: Land expropriation and China’s urbanization. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(6), 1063–1085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schneider, M. (2017). Dragon head enterprises and the state of agribusiness in China. Journal of Agrarian Change, 17(1), 3–21. Scholar
  60. Sen, A. (1962). An aspect of Indian agriculture. Economic Weekly, Annual Number 14.Google Scholar
  61. Sen, A. (1966). Peasants and dualism with or without surplus labor. Journal of Political Economy, 74(5), 425–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. State Council Information Office, PR China. (2017, September 29). SCIO briefing on agriculture and rural development. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from
  63. State Council, P.R. China. (2012, March 8). 国务院关于支持农业产业化龙头企业发展的意见. Retrieved November 2, 2017, from
  64. State Council, P.R. China. (2017a, February 7). 农业现代化关键是农民现代化. Retrieved December 28, 2017, from
  65. State Council, P.R. China. (2017b, September 18). 农业部:2020年全国新型职业农民培育示范基地将达千个. Retrieved January 1, 2018, from
  66. State Council, P.R. China. (2017c, September 30). China develops new rice strain to avoid heavy metal pollution. Retrieved January 4, 2018, from
  67. Sun, F. (2017, April 10). The abandoned rural farms threatening China’s food security. Retrieved January 3, 2018, from
  68. Tan, S., Heerink, N., & Qu, F. (2006). Land fragmentation and its driving forces in China. Land Use Policy, 23(3), 272–285. Scholar
  69. Tatlow, D. K. (2014, April 25). After “cadmium rice,” now “lead” and “arsenic rice”. Retrieved January 7, 2018, from // Scholar
  70. The Economist. (2013, October 31). A world to turn upside down. The Economist. Retrieved from
  71. The Economist. (2017, June 8). The most neglected threat to public health in China is toxic soil. Retrieved from
  72. The State Council Information Office, P.R. China. (2017, September 29). 国新办举行十八大以来农业农村工作进展情况发布会. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from
  73. Wang, Q., & Zhang, X. (2017). Three rights separation: China’s proposed rural land rights reform and four types of local trials. Land Use Policy, 63(Supplement C), 111–121. Scholar
  74. Wang, Y., Zhang, G., & Wang, L. (2015). Potential toxicity of phthalic acid esters plasticizer: Interaction of dimethyl phthalate with trypsin in vitro. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 63(1), 75–84. Scholar
  75. Wang, J., Lv, S., Zhang, M., Chen, G., Zhu, T., Zhang, S., et al. (2016). Effects of plastic film residues on occurrence of phthalates and microbial activity in soils. Chemosphere, 151(Supplement C), 171–177. Scholar
  76. Wu, L., & Zhu, D. (2014). Food safety in China: A comprehensive review. Chicago: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Xi, J. (2017, November 4). Full text of Xi Jinping’s report at 19th CPC National Congress. Retrieved November 5, 2017, from
  78. Xinhuanet. (2015a, May 26). President Xi stresses farmland protection. Retrieved December 27, 2017, from
  79. Xinhuanet. (2015b, May 26). 习近平:做好耕地占补平衡 推进农村土地流转-新华网. Retrieved November 10, 2017, from
  80. Xinhuanet. (2016, May 26). Xi stresses importance of cooperative farming – Xinhua | Retrieved November 10, 2017, from
  81. Xinhuanet. (2018, January 3). Researchers find approach to cultivate high-manganese, low-cadmium rice. Retrieved from
  82. Xu, Q., Yi, R., & Zhang, H. (2011). Economies of scale returns to scale and the problem of optimum-scale farm management: An empirical study based on grain production in China. Economic Research Journal, 3, 59–71.Google Scholar
  83. Yang, D., & Liu, Z. (2012). Study on the Chinese farmer cooperative economy organizations and agricultural specialization. Agricultural Economics/Zemedelska Ekonomika, 58(3), 135–146.Google Scholar
  84. Yasuda, J. K. (2017). On feeding the masses. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Ye, J. (2015). Land transfer and the pursuit of agricultural modernization in China: Land transfer and agricultural modernization in China. Journal of Agrarian Change, 15(3), 314–337. Scholar
  86. Yeh, E. T., O’Brien, K. J., & Ye, J. (2013). Rural politics in contemporary China. Journal of Peasant Studies, 40(6), 915–928. Scholar
  87. Yuan, M., Yi, X., Chen, Y., Zhao, K., Yang, X., & Liu, L. (2017). 我国家庭农场发展的现状, 问题及培育建议——基于农业部专项调查 34.3 万个样本数据. Journal of China Agricultural Resources and Regional Planning, 6, 184–188.Google Scholar
  88. Yuen, S. (2014). China’s new rural land reform? assessment and prospects. China Perspectives, 1, 61.Google Scholar
  89. Zhang, L. (2008, September 16). 对农村土地隐形抛荒的调查与分析-. Retrieved January 3, 2018, from
  90. Zhang, Q. F. (2012). The political economy of contract farming in China’s agrarian transition. Journal of Agrarian Change, 12(4), 460–483. Scholar
  91. Zhang, Q. F. (2015). Class differentiation in rural China: Dynamics of accumulation, commodification and state intervention: Accumulation, commodification and state intervention. Journal of Agrarian Change, 15(3), 338–365. Scholar
  92. Zhang, H. (2016, May 18). Feeding the Chinese: Wither the self-sufficiency policy? Retrieved December 14, 2017, from
  93. Zhang, Q. F., & Donaldson, J. A. (2008). The rise of agrarian capitalism with Chinese characteristics: Agricultural modernization, agribusiness and collective land rights. The China Journal, 60, 25–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Zhang, Q. F., & Donaldson, J. A. (2013a). China’s agrarian reform and the privatization of land: A contrarian view. Journal of Contemporary China, 22(80), 255–272. Scholar
  95. Zhang, Q. F., & Donaldson, J. A. (2013b). China’s agrarian reform and the privatization of Land: A contrarian view. Journal of Contemporary China, 22(80), 255–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Zhang, Q. F., & Wu, J. (2017). Political dynamics in land commodification: Commodifying rural land development rights in Chengdu, China. Geoforum, 78(Supplement C), 98–109. Scholar
  97. Zhang, Q. F., Oya, C., & Ye, J. (2015). Bringing agriculture back in: The central place of agrarian change in rural China studies. Journal of Agrarian Change, 15(3), 299–313. Scholar
  98. Zhong, F., Chen, K., & Zhu, J. (2018). Agricultural and rural policies in China. In W. H. Meyers & T. Johnson (Eds.), Handbook of international food and agricultural policies (p. 544). Singapore: World Scientific. Retrieved from
  99. Zhou, T. (2014). 周天勇:中国土地和住宅体制改革. Retrieved January 3, 2018, from
  100. Zhu, Q. (2013). 新型职业农民与家庭农场. Journal of China Agricultural University (Social Sciences Edition), 30(2), 157–159.Google Scholar
  101. Zhu, Y. (2015). 食品安全难监管. Youth View, (1), 13–13.Google Scholar
  102. Zhu, L. (2017). Food security and social protection for the rural poor in China. New York: Routledge. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)Nanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

Personalised recommendations