Village-by-Village Democracy in China, What Seeds for Freedom?

30 11 2009

URL: http://www.aei.org/paper/100007. Source: American Enterprise Insitute (AEI).

In his study of the French Revolution and France’s political development, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded that village government can plant the seeds of national freedom–but only if its emerging democratic citizens learn to protect themselves from national-level attempts to coerce, co-opt, or compromise their efforts. China’s “village democracy” movement is testing that hypothesis. There are elements of the local village governments–which now boast 905,000 elected committees and 3.7 million locally elected officials–that promote democracy and some that subvert it. Furthermore, China’s imperial, Republican, and Maoist periods have also shaped the character of Chinese villagers as prospective democratic citizens. Chinese villagers are using village democracy to gain democratic skills and that, in the process, they are proving Tocqueville wrong in his own assessment of their worthiness for citizenship.

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