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"Chairman Mao Can Vote and So Can We": A History of Elections as State-Building Rituals in Twentieth Century China

Stanford Center For East Asian Studies hosts a discussion of the role of elections in 20th Century China as a ritual rather than a right.

May 30, 2013 4:15pm to 5:30pm

Joshua Hill, Assistant Professor of History, Ohio University; Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Chinese Studies, UC Berkeley

Elections have been an important part of mainland Chinese political culture for over a century. Beginning in the waning years of the Qing dynasty and continuing until the first decade of the People's Republic, Chinese governments devoted significant amounts of time and resources to the organizing of elections. Despite this, Chinese elections have generally been dismissed as charades because none of the regimes that ruled China in the twentieth century came to power through the ballot box. Instead, rulers expected these elaborately planned elections to serve an entirely different function: as ritual occasions for the training, education, and creation of citizens. The goal of voting was not to give voters the chance to change the government, but to give the government an opportunity to transform the electorate.

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