Governments adopt different tools of macroeconomic management—for example, interest rates, wage restraint, exchange rate management, and Keynesian fiscal tools—to suit their political needs and manage business cycles. In this talk, I argue that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used its control over the land supply as the key instrument of macroeconomic management since the early 1990s. Instead of imagining land politics in China as battles between predatory local governments against a central government that tries, in vain, to discipline local officials, this perspective instead sees local governments as agents of the state, implementing macroeconomic policy and acting as scapegoats for public anger over land grabs.
Meg Rithmire is an assistant professor in the Business, Government, and International Economy Unit at Harvard Business School, where she teaches in the MBA required curriculum. She earned her PhD in Government from Harvard in 2011. Her work has been published in World Politics and China Quarterly, and her book, Land Bargains and Chinese Capitalism, will be published by Cambridge University Press in October 2015.