Rusty Nails?

The “Nail House” story from Chongqing that I have mentioned previously is still in the news. Simon Elegant of Time and Time‘s China Blog talks about a “nail house” story in Shanghai that echoes some of the concerns that I have about overly lauding holdouts.

A similar case in Shanghai (see picture below) ended a week ago after two years of negotiations when house was torn down. Local government officials originally offered an apartment and $250,000 to the husband and wife owners, but they asked for an extra $250,000. A previous attempt by the local government to tear down the house in November 2005 ended with the wife pouring a bucket of gasoline over herself and threatening to set herself on fire. Following that incident, they were left in peace. No one knows how much the couple agreed to take, but a neighbor was quoted by a local paper as saying: “They were happy when they moved out.”

It is difficult to draw a line between protection of private property and economic development. The state’s ability to improve infrastructure without the ‘hassles’ that India or other more democratic societies have to deal with is a popular strain of thought in the story of Chinese economic growth. With the passage of the private property rights law, where is that line going to be drawn now?

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