Village Elections, Government Accountability, And Policy Provisions in Rural China
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Village Elections, Government Accountability, And Policy Provisions in Rural China


China has implemented democratic elections in its rural areas since the early 1980s to curb local corruption. The sudden introduction of direct elections changed the social and political dynamics in the policy input and output ends. If the elections worked out as expected, they should have tilted the power balance between the local government and the villagers. In addition, holding elections consistently over the past three decades should have reshuffled the traditional social structure within the villages. In this sense, a longitudinal perspective that treats elections as a political institution is much needed.This dissertation aims to answer the following questions: has the formal channel of participation via village elections made VCs more accountable? How do elections evolve over time in an authoritarian regime? Finally, as a formal avenue, how do elections interact with the traditional informal avenues (e.g., social group, clanship) in checking VCs’ behaviors? This dissertation argues that village elections bring in government accountability right after the first election for the same reason why it works in other democracies. As time goes by, villagers become increasingly familiarized with the voting procedure. As a result, they should show higher levels of enthusiasm and trust in village governance, shifting the power dynamics away from traditional avenues (such as informal kinship structures) to formal ones. The past literature has attempted to answer some of the questions but not without mixed results. I adopt a causal inferential design to clarify the confusion after pointing out the underlying reasons leading to the mixed results.

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