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POLI422 - Li & O'Brien: The Struggle Over Village Elections

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 422
Juan Wang

LiOBrienThe Struggle Over Village ElectionsThere are signs that democratic reform is taking root in the countryside Efforts to improve the accountability of grassroots leaders have been made The Organic Law of Villagers Committees in 1987 established village committee members as having fixed terms 3 years and are elected in popular elections in which all adult registered villages have suffrage and can stand for officeThese elected leaders have limited but real autonomy from the township officials directly above themThese efforts have received much attention outside of China by officials NGOs and scholars Some have argued that the rationale behind the law was to exchange limited democratic rights for popular compliance with state policies 130 Others have suggested that the elections are meant to improve the quality of village leadership and a way to implicate villagers in the execution of unpopular policies The relationship between economic development and democratization at the village level is also contested Peng Zhens Vision and Bo Yibos Timely Support The Organic Law was hotly debated in the NPC and was pushed through by Peng Zhen then chairman of the NPC SC It is likely that Pengs support for the law sprang from his understanding of socialist democracy As China has almost no tradition of selfrule democratic habits must be cultivated in both the officials and the people Thus socialist democracy has two dimensions democracy is to be strengthened for the leadership by strengthening the congresses and democracy is to be strengthened for the people by strengthening selfgovernance The heart of rural democratic training is the promotion of villagers autonomyPeng hinted that after rural residents become skilled at running their own villages they may move on to govern townships and counties While few opposed this rationale some worried that the Organic Law was arriving too early and that the villagers were not ready for selfrule Peng argued that the Organic Law was urgently needed to prevent further deterioration incadremass relations which would consequently lead to a deterioration of political control Just one year after its implementation it again came under controversy due to the
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