Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 07/2008

Vote of Confidence, A? Voting Protocol and Participation in China's Village Elections

Xiaopeng Pang

January 2007

Asia-Pacific Research Center


The goal of our paper is to provide an empirical basis for understanding progress (or stagnation) in the evolution of China's village committee elections. To meet this goal, we pursue three specific objectives. First, we seek to identify patterns (and trends) of voting behavior and develop ways to measure participation in the voting process. Second, we analyze who is voting and who is not (and document the process by which their votes are cast). Finally, we see to understand the correlation between propensity to vote and the quality of village elections.

To meet our objectives, the rest of the paper relies on a unique set of national representative, household- and village-level data collected by one of the authors. Using the data, descriptive analysis and multivariate analysis are used to demonstrate that while voting protocol differs across villages and over time, despite progress and despite high nominal voting rates, there are still gaps in coverage of groups of individuals in rural China. Some of the largest gaps occur in the case of women and migrants and migrant women. In many cases, large shares of individuals in these groups are being systematically excluded from truly participating in the process of voting. Policy-wise, the paper concludes that China's government needs to increase its effort to promote more regular voting procedures to insure that true participation in village committee elections is more widespread and does not systematically exclude groups of individuals.