On October 1, China celebrates the 60th anniversary of the revolution that swept the communists to power, forming the People's Republic of China.

Today, a new experiment in land reform is under way that could once again bring sweeping change to China, affecting the lives of 800 million rural peasants.

China's current system of collective ownership divides village land equally between residents to grow what they like.

But it has also left China's rural population vulnerable to exploitation and corruption at the hands of village committees, sometimes leading to violent protests.

Over 70 million farmers are estimated to have lost their land in China in the past decade.

Now, farmers like Yan Deyou in Central China's Xiaogang village want to expand farmers' authority so they can "lease" the rights to their land to create bigger, more efficient farms, or attract developers to build new enterprises on their territory.

Such moves bring the central government to a crossroads - whether to continue with the path of economic reform, or hold true to the collective ownership of land.


This episode of 101 East first aired in October 2009.

Source: Al Jazeera