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The political economy of ‘land grabs’ in China and India

Public seminar


1st September 2015


Weston Theatre, Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU


Lynette H Ong, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto.



Both China and India have witnessed significant land grabs in the last two decades. The massive land-taking phenomenon in both countries has been similarly driven by a growth imperative.

Lands were taken by the state in both countries in the name of ‘public purposes’ for the sake of development whether they are for construction of infrastructure or for industrial zones. Despite similar anti-farmers outcomes, China and India are characterised by fundamentally different political systems. On the one hand, when the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 following the defeat of the Kuomintang in the Civil War, the support base of the Chinese Communist Party led by Mao came from the peasants. How does such an anti-peasant outcome come about in a communist state? On the other hand, India is a functioning democracy that has seen power at the national level transitioned back-and-forth between the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). A pertinent question in the case of India is, how does such inequitable redistribution of resources take place in a democracy?

Lynette Ong is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Toronto. She received her PhD from The Australian National University. She was An Wang Post-doctoral Fellow at Harvard University in 2008-09. She has also held visiting professorship at Peking University, Fudan University and Renmin University in China. Her book, Prosper or Perish: The Political Economy of Credit and Fiscal Systems in Rural China was published by Cornell University Press in 2012. Her publications have appeared in Comparative Politics, International Political Science Review, China Quarterly, Pacific Affairs, Asian Survey and the Journal of East Asian Studies. Her opinion pieces have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, East Asia Forum and New Mandala, among others. Her research were and are currently funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the European Union, the Connaught Committee, the Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation, the Association of Asian Studies, and the International Center for Tax and Development at Sussex University.

This seminar is presented by, Crawford School of Public Policy, at The Australian National University.

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