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This article examines a series of four direct elections and their impact in a poorly governed Chinese village near Beijing. Based on the problems exposed in the elections and governance, it identifies the main contradiction in the village to be that of economic justice between villagers on one side, and the old and elected officials, and village toughs and predatory entrepreneurs, on the other. It illustrates the dynamics of politics in the village, in particular factionalism, since the beginning of direct elections and the rise of village toughs and predatory entrepreneurs in recent years and the damaging effect of the latter on the village’s socioeconomic order and democratization. This article also points out limitations of the procedural and institutional studies that dominate the field and the need for careful case studies for a more complete and nuanced picture.


Published in Modern China 39, no. 1 (2013): 37-68. Copyright 2013 SAGE Publications.

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Modern China




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