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Power to the People? Villagers' self-rule in a North China village from the locals' point of view

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Abstract

This article examines ethnographically the implementation of the Organic Law and practice of 'villagers' self-rule' in a North China village from 2003 to 2004. Based on in-depth interviews and participant observation, it recounts the election of a villagers' committee and the functioning of a 'democratic supervisory small group'. It shows that critical disparities exist between what Chinese policymakers and many scholars argue for on the one hand (for instance, enhancing cadre accountability, empowering ordinary villagers, and promoting grassroots democracy), and how most villagers view the actual practices on the other. It concludes that the locals' negative views are not idiosyncratic, the vision of 'rule by the people' remains difficult to take root, and that local metaphors are resourcefully used to make sense of newly-introduced practices.

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... These village cadres, often assisted by their lineage associates, implement state mandates and serve as crucial brokerages between upper-level state governments and the local residents they represent (Mattingly 2016). However, also because of the presence of lineage networks, while village elections are designed to promote grassroots democracy, they sometimes turn out to be a vessel of factional maneuver (Hu 2008). A key reason for election contention at the village level is that families could win or lose, financially, from who is elected. ...
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... Hal ini menunjukan potensi sekaligus tantangan dalam mewujudkan kemandirian desa. Jumlah desa yang besar, alih-alih menjadi (Hu, 2008) (Bierschenk & Sardan, 2003). Oleh karenanya adanya UU Desa adalah upaya mengembalikan power yang perlu dimiliki desa. ...
... In the context of the controversial debate surrounding further revisions to the 1998 Organic Law, alongside technical aspects such as the definition of which villagers are entitled to vote (cunmin) and the standardization of important implementation regulations (e.g., in relation to the nomination and selection of candidates or methods for casting and counting votes), the discussion has centered primarily on a clarification of the relationship between the village party committee and the VC (lianghui wenti), on the one hand, and the township government and the VC, on the other. Other issues regarding potential changes to the legislation have included a clear legal definition of the role and function of the village representative assembly; a content-related clarification of the process of the disclosure of village finances; and clear regulations regarding the legal persecution of infringements of the Organic Law and its local implementation regulations (see, e.g., Su and Yang 2005;Yu Liedong 2006;Hu 2008;Tan 2010;Zhou 2010). As has been described in chapter 3, the new Organic Law passed in 2010 provides only partial clarifications of these issues. ...
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Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Administration and Authority Structures in Rural China from a Historic Perspective Chapter 3: Direct Village Elections as a New Element of Administrative Control and Legitimation Chapter 4: Previous Studies on Village Elections and Conceptual Framework Chapter 5: Three Case Studies Chapter 6: Conclusions Chapter 7: Outlook Appendix: Survey Questions The 1987, 1998 and 2010 Versions of the Organic Law on Villagers' Committees of the People's Republic of China
... Even when leadership is elected through fair and democratic procedures, this does not necessarily mean that they have increased input into policy-making that affects them, or even control over village resources (Sturgeon 2009). Elections may become a struggle between elite factions, rather than a means of ensuring collective decision-making (Yao 2009;Hu 2008). ...
... That is, the majority of women casted their votes without knowing what the candidates stood for or what their individual merits were. It is highly possible that they casted their votes according to the opinion of their husbands or other male family members (Guo, Zheng, and Yang 2009), or simply casted their vote according to lineage lines or fellow villagers' views (Hu 2008). In fact, a small number of the surveyed women (3%) let someone else cast the vote on their behalf. ...
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Baogang He, 'Are village elections competitive? The case of Zhejiang', in Joseph Cheng, ed., China's Challenges in the Twenty-first Century (Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong Press, 2003), pp. 71 –92.
Inklings of Democracy in China George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live by
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Ogden, Inklings of Democracy in China. ZONGZE HU 21. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live by (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1980);
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