China is confronted with three intrinsic dilemmas related to farmland conversion: (1) conserving farmland for national food security versus converting farmland to boost local government income; (2) protecting farmland to ensure the basic living conditions of vulnerable farmers versus developing farmland to encourage farmers’ transition toward urban livelihoods; (3) preserving farmland by exercising national regulatory controls versus managing farmland through localised negotiations among the concerned stakeholders. This paper analyses three cases based on interview data collected from Shanghai, Guizhou, and Henan between 2009 and 2012. Each case consists of an informal local resolution to one of the three farmland dilemmas, and involves a variety of actors—local entrepreneurs, ethnic minority farmers, and village committee members—who act as ‘barefoot planners’. On the basis of these findings, this paper makes a series of policy recommendations and calls for more flexible, spontaneous, and place-based farmland planning in China through social learning.
- informal planning
- social learning