In a new article available at the JCA website, Tamara Jacka of the Australian National University and Wu Chengrui of the Yunnan Provincial Institute for Ethnic Studies, Yunnan University of Nationalities in Kunming, write on “Village Self-Government and Representation in Southwest China” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2015.1047252).
In the article, the authors examine official notions that Chinese villages are “self-governed” by village committees, whose members are meant to be elected by villagers and held accountable to these electors and village representative assemblies.
They note that previous studies have focused on the institutions of self-government, assuming that they will advance villager participation in governance and the representation of villager interests. In contrast, in this article, the focus is on local understandings of political roles and relationships, as they are constructed through everyday political claims and practices. The authors use qualitative data from research in four villages in Yunnan, Southwest China.
The result is that, at least in these villages, neither cadres nor villagers used the word “represent” to characterise the role of members of village government. Further, villagers do not and could not explain what their representatives do or what it means to be a “representative.”