chapter  2
16 Pages

Core democratic values and orientations

Historically the Chinese peasantry in Confucian tradition has been viewed as a conservative social and political force. A popular view still prevalent among intellectuals and the general population in China is that the peasantry is one of the main obstacles to Chinese democracy because of its conservative political culture. This is despite meaningful villager committee elections, which take place in many Chinese villages, and recent scholarship which suggests that Chinese peasants are very conscious about their rights and are willing to protect them through ‘rightful resistance.’4 Some scholars even suggest that it could be the Chinese countryside leading the rest of the country to nationwide democracy.5 Nevertheless, Chinese peasants are still too often perceived to be adherents to authoritarian culture. The absence of democracy in China is often blamed on the Chinese peasants who are thought to have a low level of democratic political culture and a lack of democratic traditions. Is this popular and negative view of the Chinese peasantry with regard

to democratic values valid? What is the current status of democratic values among peasants in southern Jiangsu province? How do Sunan peasants compare to urban residents in Beijing in terms of their democratic values? What are the factors that might affect the support or lack of it for core democratic values among Sunan peasants? Answers to these questions are crucial in understanding and predicting political developments in China.