A woman walks past trees reflected on a lake in front of a construction site of a residential compound on a hazy day in Wuhan, Hubei province, China March 2015.
REUTERS

Last March, at a press conference after China’s annual National People’s Congress, Premier Li Keqiang made a remarkable—and remarkably unheralded—announcement: full private ownership of land has been restored in China’s cities. Needless to say, he did not use those exact words. But the import of his statement was the same. Here’s how it happened and why it’s important, both economically and as a bellwether of political change.

When the Chinese Communist Party assumed control over mainland China in 1949, it did not follow Russia’s Bolsheviks in immediately abolishing the private ownership of land.

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