Negotiating the farmland dilemmas: ‘barefoot planners’ in China’s urban periphery

Yiming Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1108-1124
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • China
  • farmland
  • informal planning
  • social learning


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