Gradualism by baby-steps: "democratic progress party" in China

BBC Pictures on China's democratic progress, in the spirit of gradualism

Turnout: 94%

On a chilly December morning in Liuqian village, in China's Shandong province, 1,286 people – 94% of those villagers eligible to vote – gather in the local school playground to elect a new village committee.
Committees are responsible for the day-to-day management of villages, and since 1998 the law has stated that they must be directly elected by the villagers themselves.

Some experts believe that this could be the start of democracy in China.

Click to see the rest of the pictures.

Candidates' address

A candidate attempts to win the villagers over with a pre-vote speech, as election officials look on.
Six men are competing for three-year terms of office and all but one of them are Communist Party members.

Some say that far from encouraging democracy, village elections actually reinforce Communist Party control because they increase its legitimacy

Registration by fingerprint

The villagers queue up to register and each of them receives a ballot paper.
In a country where many middle-aged and elderly people are illiterate, fingerprints replace written signatures as proof of registration.

Beside each person's name a fingerprint is carefully placed in red ink.

Secret ballot

At private voting booths the electors make their choices.
Villager Liu Kuan is hoping for: "Somebody who is capable, who can contribute to Liuqian village, and who won't embezzle money."

Corruption among officials is a primary concern for the people of China.

Valuable votes

In many places, vote-buying is used to ensure electoral success.
Votes are extremely valuable, especially as the incumbent committee has power over the sale of village land.

Corrupt officials have also been known to sell off land and flee with the money, leaving villagers with no source of income.

Keen observers

The election is overseen by a panel of Party officials from outside the village.
Their role is to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the law.

In some places, however, local officials have annulled election results after the "wrong" person got in.

The count

The ballot box is emptied and election officials start to sort the votes.
For 19-year-old Liu Kuan the result is :"Absolutely important, because we want to elect a good secretary - a good villager - from the bottom of our hearts."

Elderly villager Huang Maoying, on the other hand, says: "They're all the same. Whoever we elect, we'll have to follow. If they'd only give us enough to eat, and look after the old people, that'd be fine."

Singing the Votes 唱票

While one official calls out the names of the candidates from the ballot papers, another keeps a tally of votes per candidate.
It's known as "singing the votes", a literal translation, because "sing" can also mean "call out".

Impatient onlookers

Villagers eager for the result peer over the wall of the school playground where the election is being held.
Their wait is almost over.

The big announcement

The master of ceremonies announces the election results.
Four of the six candidates were voted in, including the non-Party member.

The head of the committee, Zheng Jifu, retained his seat for another term, though with a reduced majority.

Victory Speech

In his victory speech, Zheng Jifu promises to deal properly with all the village issues and to be open to "public supervision".
Some Party leaders hope that making officials more accountable to the public will help curb the rampant corruption which is making the Party increasingly unpopular.

Although more powerful officials are still not directly elected, Zheng Jifu knows that in three years' time, his position will once again be in the hands of the villagers.


Only time will tell whether elections like these will take place at higher levels in China, and if so, whether this will begin to restrict the Party's power.



bobby fletcher said...

SB, I thought village level election had expanded to district level already. Aren't district level People's Congress deputies directly nominated and elected now?



Here's a IMHO balanced report on pros and cons of China's expanded election:


- bobby

bobby fletcher said...

SB, here's a link for you to check out:


It has some stats on the NPC:

- I'm not sure if the claim of direct election of NPC is correct, but even if the NPC is indirectly elected, that really means China's president is also indirectly elected (very much like how US president is indirectly elected.)

- Out of 3000 NPC deputies 500 some are non-party/independent deputies. that's 15%.

Sun Bin said...

i thought it is 'who can nominate the candidate' that differs these village (and district) election from the puppet elections of NPC? (so i wouldn't call them 'independent')

bobby fletcher said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't NPC deputies nominated and elected by district people's congress deputies? Whom are now directly elected?

BTW, I have a little bit of rant. Richard at PKD banned me again, for posting this article from Stanford Univ.:


"The Growth of Freedoms in China"

Sun Bin said...

i may not have the most updated info. my impression is NPC is still a rubber stamp.
but village elections were real, barring some scattered cases of flaws.
to compare village election with NPC may just raise doubt to village election as well.

see this.
I am not quite sure what would happen during the "由各该选区的选民小组反复酝酿、讨论、协商,根据较多数选民的意见,确定正式代表候选人名单" process. basically too arbitrary and who are those people in "选民小组"?
besides, not all NPC reps are elected this way, are they?

if we look at the numbers in the article above
...这个模糊的非法律的概念“反复酝酿” 成为人大选举中最不民主的一个阶段,整个公开选举过程中最容易发生暗箱操作的一个阶段,它的功能是“贯彻组织意图”而不是选民意图。
据北京大学法学院赵晓力的计算, 1998年北京市区县人大代表选举中,反复酝酿的结果,是选民推荐的初步候选人从50256人变为6048人(相差8.3倍),而政党和人民团体推荐的700名候选人全部成为正式候选人。两项相加6748人,是应选代表名额4403人的1.5倍。后来的正式选举中,共选出代表4402人(一名非候选人当选,一名代表未选出来)。党派提名的700人当选696人,当选率99%,选民提名的正式候选人当选3705,当选率61%。如果以最初的提名候选人为分母计算当选率,则为7.3%。(3705/6048=0.61, 3705/50256=0.073)。这难免给人留下这样的印象:“酝酿”就是把选民提出的候选人大幅度酝酿掉。(赵晓力,《县乡人大代表直接选举中的预选程序》)

I would suggest anyone with a sane mind stay away from the duck pond. :)
It is officially a hate site. most, if not all, posts and comments there are reflxibly anti-chinese.
The foul-mouthed russian could f*** everybody while others are banned asap.
i thought the only few people who made some sense were a couple ladies, but they were talkng to stone walls.

Anyone trying to comment there has only himself to blame. :)
I had stayed away from there for quite some time, so I do not know if anything changed.

If you guys want a place for meaningful chat why not go to Simonworld's forum, or the little room I set up there

btw, i just saw that they have the same thing in the pond, but immediately reflex action from a few nuts.

Sun Bin said...

but there are many positive message from that article.

1) such discussion is open, widely circulated, and not censored (hosted in sohu), implies the central govt realized these are the problems and is perhaps willing to improve the situations
2) trends of improvements, albeit small steps, can be widely seen in the various examples quoted in the article.

bobby fletcher said...

(Thanks SB, since Richard banned me again, I guess I should take a hint...)

As an example, didn't the Taishi "eye out of socket" civil rights guy a city level Ren Da rep. elected on an independent ticket?

From what I've read (and lots of guessing with simplified characters) higher level People's Congress deputies are "distilled" from lower level deputies who acts as electors.

I'm uncertain if nomination at higher level is limited to the pool of lower level elected deputies, making higher level a true indirect election.

Did Hu Jintao had to win local or provincial election like Tony Blair? It wouldn't be hard, since Hu/Blair have name recognition and can bring "pork/funding" to home town or province.

As to your other comment regarding the article's mentioning of ambiguity in primilinary nomination and primary process, I think it's actually quite reasonable. IMHO intention of sea vote (HaiShuan) and consultation of nominating groups is to make the election result more meaningfull, not necessarily party control.

In US wide nomination also goes thru a "sausage making" process in order to yield a smaller candidate list. Otherwise the election result is less compelling and meaningful.

Sun Bin said...

whatever the intention of the 'consultation' is, it is subjective and provides a pathway for manipulation.
as it turned out, in many cases it reflects control, of local authority in place, in not 'party'.

an this is bad, very bad.

there are many OBJECTIVE ways to shorten the list in the preliminary round, e.g. # nominators, guarantee deposit fund, etc. such process is widely tested elsewhere in the world. there is no excuse not using it.

Anonymous said...

I do not think the Democracy which American always talks about is a good thing.

The result of this so-called democracy would be the shift or U-turn of national strategy and policy in very short time frame. In the end, the country will not go anywhere.

The actual power will be controlled by those long-in-seat authorities such as military or intellegent services.

It may look good in developed country who has taken a lot of silver and gold from other countries and has a stable economy structure. But for others, this type of democracy means hell, we've seen a lot of those.

Sun Bin said...


I disagree.

Yes, there is a correlation between income/development and success in implementing western style democracy.
But your argument will just go as well against any type of government in the developing world. it does not help us finding the right solution.

so, let's, instead of negating democracy, search for the path to get 'there'.

Anonymous said...

I think the People's Daily newspaper and China Daily newpaper is the mouthpiece of the chinese communist regime.