Reconciling Property Rights and the Environment: A Review of the Chinese Property Law

Lü Zhongmei

The Property Law of the People’s Republic of China, adopted in the fifth session of the Tenth National People’s Congress on March 16, 2007, made a useful exploration into integrating environmental protection into property law. The Property Law established the principle of comprehensive decision-making, integrating environment and development, enlarging the definition and scope of property by accepting as new forms of property rights the right to spaces and the right to use resources exclusively owned by the State, defining the obligation to protect public interests when acquiring and exercising property rights, and providing the adjoining owner’s right to environmental protection. These rules are very important for the sustainable development of China. However, the provision of the Property Law regarding the right of use of resources exclusively owned by the State as a usufructuary right failed to distinguish different impacts on the environment through different ways of exploiting resources and also failed to provide better protection for the environment and resources. Therefore, it is necessary to reconcile the environmental law and property law with new methods on the basis of a sound understanding of the economic aspect and the ecological aspect of the environment and resources.

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