Hangzhou’s Center for the Practice of Whole-Process People’s Democracy has become the butt of online jokes about China’s lack of democracy. Whole-process people’s democracy is Party-speak for the deliberative elements of China’s governance, which it holds to be a superior form of democracy to Western electoral systems. First coined by Xi Jinping in 2019, whole-process people’s democracy entered the mainstream political lexicon in 2021 and is now a core element of Chinese propaganda—and netizen jokes. The newly established Hangzhou center has provided them rich fodder, with particularly intense ridicule aimed at a virtual reality exhibit designed to allow visitors to “experience” being a delegate to the Zhejiang People’s Congress. A video of the VR experience uploaded to Douyin, TikTok’s sister application, shows attendees picking out virtual avatars, receiving a “delegate’s badge,” standing in front of the provincial congressional building, and then dutifully sitting in the congressional auditorium with their eyes trained on the leaders on stage:
Netizens immediately saw the dark humor of the VR democracy experience. One joke captured the main thrust of online sentiment: “virtual democracy is virtually democracy.” Another said the VR experience should be called the “Shen Jilan emulator,” a riff on the late Chinese politician selected to every National People’s Congress in her lifetime. Shen infamously never voted “no,” a rare distinction even for China’s rubber stamp parliamentarians. Other netizen jokes, posted in the Douyin comment section of the video above, tapped a similar vein of humor:
Oh, I get it. The whole process is virtual 👍👍
So, every Party building activity room needs a set. May I ask how much one costs?
Hahahaha, genuinely hilarious. I’m dying laughing.
We must extend this to every village, sending virtual democracy down to the countryside.
The word “experience” is key. You can paint a pretty picture of a barbecue dinner but that’s not the same as tasting one.
Let the people feel as if they’re participating.
Good shit, they really set it up to get the message across loud and clear. [Chinese]