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Chinese Small Property
The Co-Evolution of Law and Social Norms

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  • Date Published: September 2017
  • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • format: Adobe eBook Reader
  • isbn: 9781316814895

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About the Authors
  • Small property houses provide living space to about eight million migrant workers, office space for start-ups, grassroots police stations and public schools; their contribution to the economic growth and urbanization of a city is immense. The interaction between the small property sector and the formal legal order has a long history and small property has become an established engine of social and legal change. Chinese Small Property presents vivid stories about how institutional entrepreneurs worked together to create an impersonal market outside of the formal legal system to support millions of transactions. Qiao uses an eleven-month fieldwork project in Shenzhen - China's first special economic zone that has grown to a mega city with over fifteen million people - to demonstrate this. A thorough and detailed investigation into small property rights in China, Chinese Small Property is an invaluable source of new information for students and scholars of the field.

    • Investigates a market of informal but prevalent real estate in China known as 'small property', providing new information on this growing phenomenon for scholars and policymakers concerned with land reform and urbanization in developing countries
    • Presents a detailed explanation of law and market transition in China, based on the author's expertise in Chinese law, property law, and law and social norms, offering a unique case study for China scholars in law schools and wider disciplines
    • Proposes a theory of the co-evolution of law and social norms in which social norms bypass laws meaning the interaction mechanism between the fluid law and norms is the focus, which will appeal to property and legal theorists seeking new insights into successful economies such as China
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    • Winner (for dissertation), 2017 Masahiko Aoki Award for Economics Paper, Center for Industrial Development and Environmental Governance

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Can a vibrant real estate market arise in a nation with a stunted legal system? Hernando de Soto famously thought not. Splendidly interweaving field findings with social-scientific theory, Shitong Qiao dismantles the de Soto thesis. In many Chinese cities, booming housing markets have rested largely on informal understandings.' Robert Ellickson, Walter E. Meyer Professor of Property and Urban Law, Yale Law School

    'In this remarkable book, Shitong Qiao not only illustrates the intricacies of China's booming periurban land market but also demonstrates how Chinese peasants, together with newly urbanizing industrial workers, have fashioned extensive systems of informal 'small property' commercial land transactions, in spite of a legal system that purportedly forbids them. Qiao's book offers a nuanced discussion of the relationships between law and social norms in Chinese land markets, along with a significant rejoinder to the view that dynamic land markets depend on formal systems of property law.' Carol M. Rose, University of Arizona

    'A fascinating exploration of the lively housing market that arose in suburban Shenzhen outside the framework of formal law. Based on in-depth field research, Qiao documents the residential building boom, and he then assesses both the strengths and the ultimate limitations of extra-legal arrangements as engines of development.' Susan Rose-Ackerman, Yale University, Connecticut

    'In this multi-disciplinary work, Qiao has taken Robert Ellickson's pioneering work on social norms and property rights from rural California to Shenzhen, China, one of the world's fastest growing, most complex urban markets. In doing so he has demonstrated that much of what we thought we knew about law, property rights, social norms, and development was incomplete at best and flat wrong at worst.' Frank Upham, Wilf Family Professor of Property Law, New York University School of Law

    'All in all, this book provides very valuable insights into the evolution of China's property rights regime. It revisits several influential conventional theories and offers critical and valid scrutiny based on empirical findings in China. These insights are most likely applicable to other primitive property markets in developing countries too. The author advances the theoretical depth of existing literature and offers an analytical framework for further research worth doing by scholars of varying fields, including property law, comparative law, law and development, and law and economics.' Weitseng Chen, ICON

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2017
    • format: Adobe eBook Reader
    • isbn: 9781316814895
    • contains: 11 b/w illus. 10 tables
    • availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
  • Table of Contents

    1. The evolution of land law in China: partial reform, vested interests, and small property
    2. Planting houses in Shenzhen
    3. Small property, big market: a focal point explanation
    4. Small property, adverse possession and optional law
    5. Small property in transition: a tale of two villages
    6. All quiet on the judicial front?
    Conclusion: market transition: sticky norms or sticky law?

  • Author

    Shitong Qiao, The University of Hong Kong
    Shitong Qiao is Assistant Professor of Law at The University of Hong Kong and New York University Global Associate Professor of Law. Qiao graduated from top Chinese and US law schools with numerous prizes, including the Top Academic Prize from Peking University and the Judge Ralph K. Winter Prize from Yale University, Connecticut. He advises government agencies, inside and outside China, on the Chinese land regime. His publications on property and social norms have appeared in leading English and Chinese law journals.


    • Winner (for dissertation), 2017 Masahiko Aoki Award for Economics Paper, Center for Industrial Development and Environmental Governance

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