Howard French: China’s New Frontiers: Tests of Democracy and Dissent

From The New York Times, via A Glimpse of the World:

With his smart clothes, blow-dried hair and speech peppered with references to Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu, Jiang Zhaohua, the young Communist Party secretary for this prosperous township, bears little resemblance to the usual Chinese politician.

Under his leadership, Mr. Jiang’s township of 110,000 people recently embarked on a novel experiment in governance, allowing citizens’ preferences to determine, after detailed consultations over the pros and cons, which major projects will go ahead, and how their money will be spent.

“Our original manner was the government deciding everything, only announcing the results afterward to the people,” Mr. Jiang said candidly, with a sharp sweep of his arm to suggest official high-handedness. “We never got to know the public’s opinion. It was 20 people sitting in a room who decided everything.”

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