Why would the removal of authoritarian institutions in some developing countries lead to sustained socio-economic crisis, while others experience explosive growth despite 'persisting' informal, insecure and rent-seeking institutional arrangements? A key to solving this enigma lies in understanding China, a country where the paradoxes of development are highly visible. Peter Ho argues that understanding China's economy necessitates an analytical refocusing from Form to Function, detached from normative assumptions about institutional appearance and developing instead a 'Credibility Thesis'. In this reading, once institutions endogenously emerge and persist through actors' conflicting interactions, they are credible. Ho develops this idea theoretically, methodologically, and empirically by examining institutions around the sector that propelled, yet, simultaneously destabilizes development: real estate - land, housing and natural resources. Ho shows how this sector can further both our understanding of institutions and issues of capital, labor, infrastructure and technology.