Village Elections in China

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This study considers the institutional evolution and progress of village elections in China. China’s dramatic economic growth in less than 30 years is the result of economic reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s, and thus has lifted more than 200 million people out of poverty. This change began with the “household responsibility system” permitting peasants to farm their own land, which eventually led to the abolishment of the commune system. In an effort to establish viable rural governance after de-communization, villagers took the initiative in establishing village self-government and electing their own leaders to manage village affairs. This book studies the creation and evolution of democratic institution of village election. It examines the causes of village election, the making of state and provincial election legislation, state implementation and improvement of village election rules and procedures, and the role of domestic and foreign players in influencing electoral institutionalization of village self-governance, and it assesses the impact of village election on Chinese political development. It argues for the institutional buildup of democratic infrastructures to ensure what could eventually be the beginning of a more extensive move towards democracy.


"... This, in brief, is a book on a small subject that nonetheless is of the greatest consequence for a country that is moving to the center of international politics. The book chronicles the evolution and progress of village elections in China and therefore offers a roadmap as to what could eventually be the beginning of a more extensive liberalization and democratization process. That will not happen automatically, and it is unlikely to happen soon, but the last decade suggests that it will happen, and Dr. Tan’s book offers some insights as to how it might occur.” – (from the Foreword) – Dr. Robert A. Pastor, American University

“... Dr. Tan’s study is descriptively detailed, theoretically informed, and clearly reasoned. There is much new information on the origins and mechanics of village elections in China, as well as persuasive explanations for how they function … This study provides valuable new information on grassroots Chinese politics, on the relationship between the Central authorities and the grassroots, and suggestive hypotheses for future institutional development.” – Professor Peter R. Moody, Jr., University of Notre Dame

Table of Contents

1. Village Election and Institutional Creation
2. Decommunizing Chinese Village
3. Legislating Village Elections
4. Implementing Village Elections
5. Observing Elections: Impact of Foreign Involvement
6. Assessing Village Elections
7. Expanding Elections Beyond Villages?
8. Institution and Democratic Development

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