Chinese democratization in perspective: Electorates and selectorates at the township level
The most recent round of township-level elections in China began in mid-1998. By the end of the year, 24 provinces had already completed elections at this level. In Chongqing municipality, which acquired its provincial-level status in 1997, the election of people's congress delegates began in October 1998. The entire electoral process at the township level (election of more than 75,000 delegates and 8,000 congress and government leaders) was scheduled to be completed in all 830 townships and 648 towns by the end of February 1999. By law, the first meeting of delegates elected to a local people's congress is convened within two months of their election. To observe, within a week, election of delegates to the township people's congress and election of leaders by township people's congress delegates required that our delegation visit localities at different stages in the electoral processes. We first observed grassroots elections of delegates in voting districts of Changyuan town in Rongchang county. We then travelled to Dazu county to observe the first session of the 14th people's congress of Baoding town, at which delegates elected leaders of their people's congress and government. At our request, we were given access to original electoral records for each voting district in Baoding, which allows reconstruction of grassroots elections of delegates there. We were also provided with the package of documents received by each congress delegate. Of course a few districts and a single town are not a representative sample of elections that take place in some 45,000 Chinese towns and townships. The account below is based on observations, interviews, documents and reports from our delegation visit. Broader conclusions are formed by placing field observations in the context of existing knowledge about the Chinese cadre management system.
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