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Keywords:

  • China;
  • democracy;
  • village elections;
  • vote buying

Local elections have been occurring in most villages for over a decade in rural China, and competitive elections are one of the key indicators of the democratic process. Indeed, competition is an important aspect of any democracy, and it increases the value of a villager's vote—so much so that in some villages, a farmer's vote can be worth a small fortune. As village elections become more competitive, reports of vote buying are on the rise, and a number of journalists and academic researchers have condemned this growing practice in rural China. Accordingly, vote buying subverts democratic development and hinders democratization efforts. However, vote buying has a long history in well-established democracies, such as the United States and Great Britain. Rather than subverting democratization, vote buying can be viewed as part of the process or the price of democracy. While policies and laws are needed to control vote buying in the long run, initially it is a positive indicator that voting is an important and valuable process in rural China.