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China's Political Reform and Villagers' Self-governance


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

In recent years, villagers' self-governance has run into bottlenecks in both academic research and practical work. The reason is that it has been clearly expressed by high-level leaders and also strongly hoped by the public that villagers' self-governance, after a period of pilot practice, is bound to make major breakthroughs in terms of policies and laws, and even realize direct election in villages, towns, and at higher levels. However, the so-called breakthroughs and progress have not occurred so far and the institutional obstacles curbing the initial advance of villagers' self-governance are still there. First, village-level election has so far exerted prominent and profound influence on China's rural governance. Under the circumstance that no breakthroughs have been made in respect of institutional systems and legal frameworks, we still see progress in farmers, namely their enhanced political awareness. Speaking of actual effects, the process of "fooling" farmers is in essence one of democratic enlightenment and political mobilization for farmers. Second, institutional changes relating to Party or government organization at village level cannot take place exclusively. From the perspective of long-term social development, these historical achievements over years with respect to direct election in villages should certainly be praised, and we should feel encouraged by them. At the same time however, we should not hence underestimate the existing constraints and problems facing us. Finally, the enhancement of self-governance must be a megatrend. Yet for now, China does not have villagers' self-governance in a real sense. However, this does not mean that present-day farmers in China cannot run self-governance well. It is believed that villagers' self-governance will be greatly promoted in line with the megatrend.

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