What could be the most adequate real-life example of the fictional, fantastical Pixar movie “Up?” — China’s land–use rights saga! In “Up,” Mr. Frederickson’s entire life and all his cherished memories are threatened when real estate developers want to usurp his home and his land. Through constant harassment, the developers finally force Mr. Frederickson to give up everything he owns – or so they think. To everyone’s surprise, Mr. Frederickson uses thousands of helium balloons to carry his home to the mystical place of his childhood dream: Paradise Falls. In reality, the battle between Mr. Frederickson and the real estate developers reflects the heartaches of many Chinese rural villagers, and unfortunately, the Chinese villagers cannot fly their homes to Paradise Falls.
When I learned about China’s land-use rights system — that all land is owned by the government, and the citizens receive “rights” to use the land — I felt even more fortunate to live in a free country where people are entitled to own private land and personal properties. In recent years, land-use rights in China have been put to the test as corruption among the local government and real estate developers worsens. China’s rapid urbanization and the local governments’ need for additional revenue created a ferocious phenomenon of illegal land seizures. Farmers suffer from losing their land-use rights, and the compensation from the local government often barely makes up the loss.