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Open Access Publications from the University of California

UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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PBLJ focuses on a diverse range of legal and policy issues as they affect the rapidly developing economies of the Pacific Rim. Throughout its history, the journal has featured articles written by leading scholars and practitioners on topics including human rights law, constitutional law, comparative law, criminal law, international trade law, business and corporate law, and intellectual property law.

Volume 24, Issue 1, 2006

Front Matter


Acquiring Land Use Rights in Today's China: A Snapshot from on the Ground

For the interested observer of contemporary real estate markets, China is the most fascinating place in the world, and the coming years promise to be no less exciting. This Article offers an overview of how a specific segment of the Chinese real estate market-the acquisition of land use rights-operates in practice, from both a legal and business perspective.

I recently interviewed dozens of Chinese and Western experts who are taking part in one of the greatest real estate booms in world history. My conversations with these real estate developers, bankers, government officials, judges, practicing lawyers, consultants, economists, real estate agents, and law and business professors provide acute insights into how China is transforming itself from an economic backwater into a self-styled "socialist market economy."

The fact that Chinese real estate and business laws are still in an early stage of development, the speed with which the Chinese legal and economic systems are evolving, and the strong cultural tradition of reliance on personal relationships rather than rule-of-law principles all demonstrate why a straightforward doctrinal approach would be incomplete and misleading. My goal here is to establish how this particular aspect of Chinese real estate practice is maturing with what appears to be tremendous success against the backdrop of a young legal system.