While most studies focus on large-scale foreign corporate-dominated land grabbing, relatively small-scale land acquisitions initiated by local villagers receive much less attention. This reflects that the scale, the identity of investors and a simplified role of villagers tend to take precedence in analyses of land grabbing. However, the common dichotomies of “large vs small” “outside vs local actors” and “victim vs grabber” might be problematic and even misleading, considering the case of Guangxi. In China's Guangxi province, with the rise of the industrial tree planation (ITP) sector, some villagers have gained control over the land from local or nearby village collectives and have become owners of ITPs. Over the course of these practices, grabbers are not from “outside” but “local villagers” themselves. They are then able to control the land, which was originally collectively used and benefit from it at the expense of their neighbours and kin, under certain contexts. Such land control change is called intimate land grabbing. This case demonstrates that: (1) small-scale land grabs are not necessarily less significant than large-scale ones; (2) land grabs dominated by local actors sometimes have more serious adverse impacts on local communities; and (3) villagers can also be grabbers, rather than simply victims, or otherwise resisters. In bringing the issue of intimate land grabbing into the debate, this paper argues that the importance of a land grab is neither represented by its scale nor the identity of the grabber(s), but by its de facto consequences, especially the distribution of the costs and benefits. This piece hopes to highlight the importance of dynamics of social relations around land and production processes in analyses of land grabbing and contribute to a fuller picture of global land grabbing.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.08.012, hdl.handle.net/1765/109839
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Xu, Y. (2018). Land grabbing by villagers? Insights from intimate land grabbing in the rise of industrial tree plantation sector in Guangxi, China. Geoforum, 96, 141–149. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2018.08.012