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Title: A weapon of the weak? Shareholding, property rights and villager empowerment in rural China
Authors: Kan, K 
Issue Date: Mar-2019
Source: China quarterly, Mar. 2019, v. 237, p. 131-152
Abstract: As urbanization continues to fuel land and property conflicts in rural China, shareholding has been promoted as a reform in property rights that would enhance bottom-up control in the governance of collective assets. The recent proliferation of community-based shareholding companies has been credited for giving villagers new identities as shareholders, which entitle them to vote, receive their share of collective profits, and elect the managers of their wealth. This paper critically appraises these reforms and offers a contrarian perspective to singular narratives of villager empowerment. While shareholding clarifies villagers’ rights of control, income and transfer in collective property, the effective exercise of such powers is often forestalled on the ground by the concentration of power in elite hands. To the extent that formal and informal constraints on cadre power remain tenuous, shareholding could function as a vehicle for the powerful to appropriate collective wealth rather than as a weapon of the weak.
Keywords: Shareholding
Collective economy
Property rights
Village self-government
Land politics
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Journal: China quarterly 
ISSN: 0305-7410
EISSN: 1468-2648
DOI: 10.1017/S0305741018001352
Rights: Copyright © The Author(s), 2018. Published by Cambridge University Press
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
The following publication Kan, K. (2019). A Weapon of the Weak? Shareholding, Property Rights and Villager Empowerment in China. The China Quarterly, 237, 131-152 is available at
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