San Diego International Law Journal

Document Type



During the past three decades, real estate development in China has proceeded at an astonishing pace, with much development occurring before China's 2007 adoption of its first modern law of property. Investors thus spent hundreds of billions of dollars in the real estate market of a nation that, during most of this period, had not formal property law. How can a huge nation modernize so rapidly and dramatically when its legal system furnishes such uncertainty? And how can this happen in a nation that still purports to subscribe to socialist ideology? I set out to answer these questions by interviewing dozens of Chinese and Western real estate developers, bankers, government officials, lawyers, judges, economist, brokers, professors, and consultants. My goal was to learn how real estate development was actually proceeding on the ground and how these actors functioned in a world of significant legal ambiguity. Given the rapid evolution of China's modern real estate market, a complete understanding of this market requires more than just a thorough knowledge of published statutes and cases. My earlier field research examined the Chinese land use right--which serves as a surrogate for property ownership in a nation in which private citizens may not own land--and then focused on real estate finance. This Article continues the analysis of how China's real estate market functions by turning to public and private construction in China. It examines the commercial construction process, the sale of residential units, and the construction of infrastructure in China.