Village Elections for Self-Government
The National People's Congress (NPC) passed the Organic Law of Villagers' Committees (Organic Law hereafter) in November 1987. According to the Organic Law, Village Committee (VC) members are chosen in popular elections, in which all adult, registered villagers have the right to vote and stand for office. The ministry of Civil Affairs decreed on September 26, 1990, that village elections must be held. Four rounds of elections for the VC have been held since 1990 in some places in China's countryside.
The central question concerning village elections is why an authoritarian regime would promote grassroots democratic reform. I pointed out in chapter 5 that village elections was a state response to the peasant challenge. In this chapter, I address the question of why village elections are just the most recent phase of governmental attempts to improve the Chinese peasants' welfare and to strengthen the state. I discuss why cunmin zizhi (villagers' self-government) is a tool of the state for reorganizing peasants and then look at political participation in historical perspective. Next, I examine the political economy of cunmin zizhi. Finally, I highlight the factors that will determine the fate of village elections.
The Chinese have not paid much attention to village elections since their introduction in 1990, although the West has shown a strong inter-