Path to Democracy? Assessing Village Elections in China
Journal of Contemporary China, Vol. 18, No. 60, pp. 359-78, June 2009
40 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2008 Last revised: 31 May 2012
Date Written: July 13, 2009
Election procedures in rural China have improved greatly over the last twenty years and a good number of reasonably free and fair elections have been held. But changes in the exercise of power have not kept up with changes in the access to power. In many communities, township authorities, Party branches, and social forces (such as clans, religious groups, and underworld elements) continue to impede democratic rule. This suggests that a purely procedural definition of democracy is problematic and that democratization depends on the power configuration in which elected bodies are embedded. Putting grassroots democracy into place goes well beyond getting the procedures right, and high quality democracy rests on much more than convening good village elections every three years.
Keywords: China, elections, rural, village
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