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This study examines a series of four direct elections and their impact in an industrialized Chinese northern village. It finds that direct elections empowered villagers and the new economic elite to remove the old, entrenched and corrupt leadership. However, the few capitalist entrepreneurs who dominated elections and the new leadership neither abided by the rules for political competition nor tried to govern democratically. On the other hand, villagers did not feel empowered to participate in the governing process or to make officials accountable. They either became politically apathetic or hoped for a return of a benevolent authoritarian leader. This study concludes that direct elections did not enhance democratization in the village under study because the new economic elite did not want democracy to check them while ordinary villagers had not learned to use democratic institutions to make officials accountable.


Published in Journal of Contemporary China 21, no. 74 (2012): 317-332.

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Journal of Contemporary China




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Asian History Commons