The Land Use and Public Participation program provided opportunities for sharing the successes and challenges of the American and Chinese experiences of public participation in land use decisions. Government officials, scholars, and experts in both countries benefited from this timely program. Recently there has been significant support in China for finding more productive ways of managing public participation in issues such as eminent domain, demolition, and relocation. The program sought to achieve its goal through three main phases.
In the first, a delegation of eight Chinese government officials and scholars participated in a two-week study tour of the United States in February 2009. Each stop on the itinerary had a specific focus: in the New York area, it was procedural issues with the delegation sitting in on a public hearing, visiting with relevant municipal government officials, and meeting with individuals in the private sector; in the greater Washington, D.C. area, it was alternative dispute resolution methods and the federal government agencies responsible for land use decisions; and in the San Francisco Bay area, it was community groups and NGOs that work on land use decisions. Along the way, delegation members met with scholars who do relevant research at academic institutions such as Yale, New York University, and Berkeley.
During the second phase, a group of four American experts traveled to Shanghai, Xi’an, and Zhengzhou to give presentations at workshops attended by Chinese government officials and scholars on public participation in land use decisions, as well as to meet with their Chinese counterparts. A total of 83 officials, scholars, and graduate students attended day-long workshops conducted by the American delegation members in the three cities. The American delegation members gained a better understanding of the Chinese land use system through meetings with municipal government officials, law professors, lawyers, and representatives from civil society groups who work on the front lines of land use decisions in China.
In the final phase of the project, Chinese participants wrote two case studies of public participation in land use decisions — one in Shanghai and the other in Xi’an. The case studies, written with participation and feedback from the American experts, focus on the interactions among open government frameworks, land use decisions, and public participation.