Hmmmm Democracy? I doubt it. What the official media here reports about 'reform' and touts as some sort of rural grassroots democracy movement appears to these eyes to be nothing but the old system of corruption, graf, and bureacratic legerdemain. Case in point: I'm reading a magazine article reporting on "democracy as practiced in the countryside in China's Zhejiang Province." Now I can tell that the editors (for editor read 'big-daddy bureaucratic communist imprematuer') included this acticle in what is essentially an English language tourist magazine in order to show long-nosed Western ghosts how far China has come in fostering participatory government. BUT...well what it explains is how village leadership is contested in elections between local big-wigs essentially by bribery. "It would be terrific if there was an election for village head every year," said one farmer who had been treated to 27 free banquets over the summer. Another 'candidate' for village pubah pledged to spend $12,500 of his own money on public improvements and donate his salary to an entertainment center if elected. Democracy? Far from it say I. But then is it really that far from how really things operate in the States? Now I'm sure the Duc will have a good chuckle at my initial naivete, but I think I'm beginning to figure out how things work here. It's woefully inefficient and based soley upon interpersonal bargaining (there is no sense of Western professional standards) and may be summed up in the one phrase that has become my mantra when trying to explain to students why something is soooooooo crazy: It's China. The learning curve is great - I've been here 3 weeks and continue to be astounded at 'the system' that permeates every relationship.
I include the photos to show that while on the outside China often appears to be adopting capitalism and constructing Western-style cities there still exists a core of old China buried in the rubble under these sparkling skyscrapers. You have to get close in to see the reality (and even then I don't completely understand it).