Grassroots Democracy Challenges New Leaders

The growing number of mass incidents around China might show people’s impatience with the slow pace of top-down political reforms, but the bottom-up approach is not progressing smoothly either. At Reuters, John Ruwitch and James Pomfret look into the development of grassroots democracy movements in China’s rural areas, focusing on the cases of Wukan in Guangdong and Huangshan in Zhejiang.

Large-scale protests have increased in China, reflecting anger over corruption and the lack of government accountability and transparency – the kind of unrest that experiments in grassroots democracy, like the one Hua Youjuan participated in, were meant to help short-circuit.

Instead, Hua said democracy in her home village of Huangshan, in eastern Zhejiang province, was never allowed to fully succeed, thwarted by senior party officials who she accused of resisting her campaign to root out corruption.

[…] Hua’s frustrations are shared in other villages that have been to the ballot box, including China’s most famous testing ground for greater democracy, the southern fishing village of Wukan where a violent standoff over government land seizures led last year to the sacking of local leaders and elections.

[…E]ven in Wukan the new officials have had a tough time achieving their goals – partly, some say, for the same reason Hua is frustrated: higher-ranking party officials are opposed.

[…] ”If after the 18th party congress there isn’t further progress in getting back our land, more will quit,” said Zhang Jiancheng, another democratically elected member of the new Wukan village administration.

See more on Wukan and village elections in China via CDT.