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Change of arable land area in China during the past 20 years and its policy implications

LI Xiu bin(Institute of Geography,Chinese Academy of Sciences,Beijing 100101,China)  
Dynamics of arable land and its driving forces in China during the past 20 years are discussed in this paper based on statistical and survey data at national,provincial and county levels.It was found that (a)the general trend of net arable land loss started in the late 1950s which got continued and accelerated in the study period;(b)peaks of arable land loss were usually correspondent to the booming up periods of the economy;(c)the lost arable land was mostly those high quality land in the eastern part while the acclaimed land was mostly marginal land in the western part of the country;(d)area of arable land occupied by non agricultural sectors was sensitive to investment in fixed assets,indicating a low efficiency of land utilization in non agricultural sectors;and (e)urbanization rate had a positive influence on the efficiency of land utilization.The author claims that the following points should be emphasized in land management in order to protect the valuable arable land resources in the country:(a)importance should be placed on both the quantity and quality of arable land.In this connection,the present policy of “keeping quantity balance" within an administration territory is no good to the very land required protection,namely,the high quality arable land;(b)policies on rural urban migration and the development of rural industry should be reviewed,since land utilization of the non agricultural sectors in rural areas is far more inefficient than those in urban areas; and (c)land market construction in both urban and rural areas should be strengthened,since the poor circulation of land resources is a major factor of the low land utilization efficiency in China.
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