Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 18, 2016

Machine or Party Politics in China

Party politics in China don't look familiar, unless we look back to 19th century machine politics in the American cities.

China Disrupts Local Campaigns
Tuesday was Election Day in Beijing, with thousands of seats for party-run local congresses up for grabs. Outside community centers and police stations, officials urged people to “treasure democratic rights” and “cast your sacred and solemn ballot.”
Election posters in Beijing
But before the elections, there were no debates, town hall-style forums, social media wars or other hallmarks of participatory democracy.

Instead, the government responded with bluster and bullying, detaining activists and confiscating campaign materials. President Xi Jinping, who has vigorously blocked threats to the Communist Party’s dominance since coming to power in 2012, has taken a harsh stance against advocates for democracy and has sought to limit Western influences.

For the small but spirited band of activists who had been working for years to shake the status quo, the election results were disheartening, to say the least…

Despite the Communist Party’s monopoly on power in China and its strenuous efforts to limit dissent, the government has permitted elections at the local level for decades, eager to show to the world that China, too, has democracy.

Every five years, the government encourages citizens over the age of 18 without a criminal record — about 900 million people this year — to choose representatives for local People’s Congresses…

But the elections are democratic in name only. The party picks its preferred candidates and leaves no room for an upset. Even after a candidate is elected, his or her powers are severely restricted… The Legislature is widely considered to be a rubber stamp of Mr. Xi and the Communist Party…

The elections this year are the first of their kind under Mr. Xi, whose tenure has been marked by tighter control of civil society and a harsh treatment of dissidents. Over the past several weeks, the authorities have carried out a far-reaching campaign to rein in unsanctioned candidates across the country…

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