£19.99 | $31.95

14 April 2011
ISBN: 9781848138209
192 pages
216 x 138mm
Asian Arguments
Cultural Studies, Development, Geography, International Relations, Politics, Sociology and Social Policy

Ballot Box China

Grassroots Democracy in the Final Major One-Party State

By Kerry Brown

Since 1988, China has undergone one of the largest, but least understood experiments in grassroots democracy. Across 600,000 villages in China, with almost a million elections, some three million officials have been elected. The Chinese government believes that this is a step towards `democracy with Chinese characteristics'. But to many involved in them, the elections have been mired by corruption, vote-rigging and cronyism. This book looks at the history of these elections, how they arose, what they have achieved and where they might be going, exploring the specific experience of elections by those who have taken part in them - the villagers in some of the most deprived areas of China.


'A sober, readable and much-needed corrective to the idea, promoted with great enthusiasm and increasing success by the ruling Communist Party, that western notions of democracy are alien to China's political traditions and culture. But Ballot Box China is not starry-eyed either, placing the issue of democracy firmly in the context of China's own internal debate about political reform.' - Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret Life of China's Communist Leaders

'This remarkably clear-eyed primer examines the state of democracy in China from the ground up, in all its complexity. From pen-portraits of local activists to insiders’ analyses, Ballet Box China offers one of the best explanations of how the world’s newest superpower is governed.' - Louisa Lim, NPR Beijing Correspondent

'"Democracy", Kerry Brown tells us, "best makes sense as part of a host of social forces which are now... recreating the contract between the Party and society." Getting a clear picture of it is a challenge, the key to which is to maintain critical balance. Care must be taken neither to be naive nor, forgetting that politics is the art of the possible, to set the bar so high as to overlook real breakthroughs. Brown finds that despite the initial excitement, "no significant moves have been made to extend the principles" of rural elections elsewhere. It is the constellation of other issues to which they are connected that lends deeper significance to the rural election story. To the basic virtues of balance and objectivity, Brown adds a merciful freedom from jargon and the academic obscurantism. The extension of genuine electoral competition for public office in China has rarely been treated so clearly and readably, making this book a tempting choice for university reading lists.' - David Kelly, Professor of China Studies, China Research Centre, University of Technology Sydney; co-author of Chinese Marxism in the Post-Mao Era

Table of Contents

1 A brief history of elections, democracy and civil society in modern China
2 Democracy... with Chinese characteristics
3 The village election process
4 The great debate: where is Chinese village democracy going?
5 The big picture: elections as part of the dynamics of a society in change
Last words

About the Author:

Kerry Brown is Senior Fellow on the Asia Programme at Chatham House, London, and Research Associate at the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy, the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is author of The Purge of the Inner Mongolian People's Party (2006), Struggling Giant: China in the 21st Century (2007), The Rise of the Dragon (2008) and Friends and Enemies: The Past, Present and Future of the Communist Party of China (2009). His book China 2020 is forthcoming. He is currently working on a political biography of Hu Jintao.