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Direct Township Elections in China: Political dynamics and governance outcomes


China's direct local elections have received a great deal of international attention, and have been a particular concern of the European Union. But there has been much more focus on understanding village elections than elections at the township level of government. Direct township elections are significant, however, because – unlike village elections – they involve the lowest tier of the Chinese governmental system. And they were suspended in 2006 after only eight years of experimentation. In this project we aim to understand first why township elections were permitted and then suspended, and second, their governance outcomes. The project will contribute to understanding the obstacles to bottom-up democratization in China, as well as the impacts of elections on local governance.

We will conduct intensive interviews with 30 officials in central party-state institutions as well as Chinese and foreign officials responsible for establishing and implementing cooperative programmes or projects on direct local elections. We will also adopt an empirical case study approach to understanding the governance effects of direct elections, comparing five townships that have introduced elections with five townships that have not. This method will deliver new cross sectional data for analysis.

The researcher, Professor Dong Lisheng (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), has been closely involved in monitoring local elections in China and has unparalleled access to decision makers and local governments there. Together with a team of political scientists at the University of Glasgow with expertise in Chinese politics and in elections and electoral politics, he will be able to produce the definitive analysis of China's township level reform experience, assess the way forward for Chinese local elections and advise European policy makers and researchers on ways of fostering good governance and democratization in China.

Call for proposal

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University Avenue
G12 8QQ Glasgow
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 309 235,20
Administrative Contact
Jane Duckett (Prof.)