PAN SHIYI IS NOT his usual jovial self. His broad grin is strained, and the deep smile creases around his eyes are less defined than usual.
During an interview with the South China Morning Post last year, Mr Pan, chairman of Soho China, one of the mainland's biggest property developers, cheerfully brushed aside the government's macro-control policies aimed at cooling the property market, saying they were having little impact on his business. But things have changed since.
'Two years ago everyone agreed that property prices were too high and something had to be done to control them,' he said last week. 'But the government's policies have had the opposite effect of what they were intending, and prices have started to rise even faster than before.'
The main reason for this, he said, was a lack of choices for Chinese investors. Government figures show that at the end of February, 15 trillion yuan in domestic individual savings deposits were sitting in banks. The amount is enough to increase the current one trillion yuan in property sales by 15 times, or more than 50 times if bank mortgage lending is factored into the equation.
'That's not including purchases by companies, institutions, foreign buyers and so on,' he said. 'Why can't the price be brought down? Because buying power is too strong.'
That leads Mr Pan to the real cause of his recent anguish.
'One way to deal with the problem is to increase the supply of property, and in order to do that the most important policy is to increase land supply,' he said.
Beijing is extremely sensitive about any social unrest arising from land seizures by local governments, which then sell the land to property developers (such as Mr Pan) for building high-end housing. The opaque and often corrupt process has been the focus of a growing number of protests in recent years.
The government has taken the trouble to make the land sale process much more transparent. But according to David Wong, managing director for CB Richard Ellis in Beijing, prices have been rising as officials increasingly grant land to the highest bidder, rather than to the developer offering the best kickbacks or with the best political connections.
Early last year, when the central government was striving to check speculation in the property market, Premier Wen Jiabao said there were two valves the government should use to control the property market - land supply and capital supply.
'It seems he didn't think the consequences of closing the land supply valve would be an increase in price,' Mr Pan said.
The second valve was not a concern for Soho China because the company had a healthy cash flow and did not require loans from state-owned commercial banks, Mr Pan said, adding that the company dropped a plan to list in Hong Kong because it had no need for fresh capital.
Even as he lamented the dwindling supply of land from the government, he acknowledged a serious contradiction that has emerged as a by-product of the country's rapid and uneven economic growth: as property prices have risen rapidly across the country, the number of vacant apartments has multiplied.
This was partly because investors were satisfied with perceived capital gains and saw no need to lower rents to meet market expectations, and partly because there was still virtually no secondary property market, so owners had difficulty offloading unwanted apartments. 'The government should work hard at developing a liquid and functioning second-hand market,' Mr Pan said.
He blamed a convoluted ownership transfer process and hefty transaction taxes introduced to curb speculation for the lack of a healthy secondary market.
Another reason for the virtual absence of secondary sales was that property buying was permitted only towards the end of the 1990s. Previously, under the planned economy, citizens were assigned an apartment by their work unit.
Many residents were still unclear about who actually owned the properties they lived in, which only complicated selling.
The ambiguity surrounding land ownership is the subject of vigorous debate among China's top leaders. Only a very small amount of the country's land area, confined to urban districts, can be bought or sold in the property market. The vast majority of land is collectively owned and leased to peasant farmers under the household responsibility system introduced in the early 1980s.
'This is not being talked about openly, but within the State Council and at the highest levels of government they have started to discuss the possibility of moving to individual ownership, like in the United States,' Mr Pan said. 'This is definitely the direction, and will be a huge step forward.'
Mr Pan, who himself was born and raised in a desperately poor region in rural Gansu, said granting peasant farmers property rights over their land was essential in addressing China's widening wealth gap.
'This reform would greatly raise the living standards of rural residents by allowing them to take out loans on their property and make money by selling it,' he said.
In the midst of intense political debate in Beijing, this reform has been set aside for the moment, in part because of fears that huge numbers of peasants would be forced further into poverty by selling off their land too cheaply.
'This is the 21st century, not the Qing dynasty,' Mr Pan said. 'Right now, the peasants have no property rights and are at a disadvantage to urban residents.'
During this week's Boao economic forum, Mr Pan is not likely to call directly for the wholesale privatisation of the country, but he will raise his criticism that the government's land supply policies were exacerbating, rather than alleviating, excessive property price increases.
'The government must rebalance the supply and demand in the property market,' he said. 'They can do that by giving us land so we can increase the housing supply.'
Mr Pang and his wife Zhang Xin set up Soho China in 1995. The company's projects have been hailed as urban landmarks, and have contributed to trends in contemporary mainland architecture.