The long land grab: market-assisted enclosure on the China-Lao rubber frontier

TitleThe long land grab: market-assisted enclosure on the China-Lao rubber frontier
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsDwyer M, Vongvisouk T
Secondary TitleTerritory, Politics, Governance
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Key themesDispossession-grabbing, FDI, Policy-law

The rise in transnational land deals has brought nationally inflected concerns about foreign land acquisition into uneasy tension with longstanding scholarly and popular concerns about dispossession. Using the case of Chinese rubber plantation promotion projects in northern Laos, we examine the intersection of these two processes during the boom decade of the 2000s, as well as the aftermath during the 2010s, when global rubber prices have fallen. We describe a 'long' land grab from upland communities in northern Laos that cannot be blamed on either 'the Chinese' (whether private, state or both) or Lao government policy, which has long mobilized political and legal authority to enclose smallholder lands for national development. Rather, what is significant is the interaction of regulatory politics and market dynamics under conditions of both unequal international relations and internally competing policy agendas on both sides of the border. Examining a case where the initial regulatory impulse from the host government was for the protection of smallholder land tenure, the paper demonstrates the need to examine the interaction of local land governance and international relations in a way that treats the latter as the product of internal struggles rather than coherent national strategy.


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Document Type

Journal Article