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Village economic autonomy and authoritarian control over village elections in China: evidence from rural Guangdong Province

Luo, Ting (2014) Village economic autonomy and authoritarian control over village elections in China: evidence from rural Guangdong Province. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis investigates the effects of village economic wealth and economic autonomy on the authoritarian control of local government over village elections in China. With new data - qualitative evidence and quantitative data collected from the extensive fieldtrips to a county in Guangdong Province, this study finds that given that village elections operate within China’s one party authoritarian regime and the official purpose of the elections is to solve the grassroots governance crisis, local government have the incentive to control the elections in their favour, that is, to have incumbents and/or party members elected. Using the election of party members to the village committee chairman position and the re-election of incumbent chairmen as proxies for the inclusiveness and contestation dimensions of village elections, this study demonstrates that collective village wealth triggers fierce electoral competition, as collective village wealth represents the lucrative benefits candidates can obtain from holding the office. However, the success of authoritarian control hinges on village economic autonomy - the opportunities for economic development beyond the control of local government. If economic resources are controlled by local government, economic development might strengthen the capacity of local government to control the elections in their favour. Even if opponents win the elections, they are inclined to be co-opted by the local government - becoming party members, because their economic gain and maintenance of power are affected by the authoritarian local government control over economic resources. In most villages in the sample, authoritarian control prevails in village elections. The findings of this thesis suggest that until now the elections have been maintained within the boundary of the CCP’s authoritarian governance. In rural China, for elections to serve the function of promoting democracy and fostering checks and balances of power - neither manipulation by the local government nor manipulation by rich opponents - the key lies in the economic empowerment of villagers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Ting Luo
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Hix, Simon and Larcinese, Valentino

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