The Empowering Effect of Village Elections in China
Asian Survey, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2003
16 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2008
Based on election observations and a two-wave panel survey, this paper offers a more rigorous test of the hypothesis that free and fair village elections may make Chinese villagers feel empowered. It shows that after the introduction of free elections, more villagers said that they would not vote in the next election for cadres who did not comply with central policies, that they would persuade other villagers not to vote for such cadres, and that they would join other villagers to make an impeachment motion. Moreover, more respondents said that they would ask the villagers' committee director to raise objections if the township government had made a decision that did not accord with central policies. A confirmatory factor analysis shows that these four indicators measure the same latent construct, which I call election-sensitive external efficacy regarding villagers' committee cadres. It also shows that the mean level of efficacy manifested by respondents after the election is significantly higher than that they did before the election. The paper argues that enhanced efficacy may lead to more active popular participation, which may affect the political restructuring in the village when villagers rally behind elected villagers' committee cadres in challenging the monopoly of power by the village Party branch. In the long run, repeated elections may help to cultivate the notion of electoral legitimacy among villagers.
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