I am 54, but have never in my life seen an election ballot. “Have you seen one?” I ask people, out of curiosity. Like me, most of them have no idea what a ballot looks like and have only seen pictures on television of people completely unknown to them clutching a ballot and voting on their behalf. A few say they have seen a ballot, but a long time ago, in their college days, when a class monitor came over, ballot in hand, and had them write down a name they’d never heard of. That was the closest they came to a democratic election. Every March, however, almost 3,000 National People’s Congress delegates and more than 2,000 Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference delegates gather in Beijing. The government claims that, as participants in the political process, they represent the voices of China’s 1.35 billion people. Every five years sees a turnover in the two assemblies, and at the meetings in March 2013, delegates who had completed their terms made way for new members. A friend of mine, returning to Beijing after a lecture tour in Europe, got a phone call as soon as he landed: He had been elected a member of the C.P.P.C.C., he was told, and was to proceed at once to the meeting hall.
“Why have I never had the chance to take part in an election?” someone posted on an Internet discussion thread. “Who are those people who elected the delegates to the National People’s Congress?”
“What a good question,” another responded. “What happens basically is that each grass-roots unit puts forward several prescreened candidates, leaving the final choice to leadership at a higher level.”
“I’m over 18,” still another asked. “Why can’t I vote?”
“Because you have already been represented,” he was told. “The N.P.C. delegates and C.P.P.C.C. members are voting as your representatives, even though you have no clue who they are.”
“Oh, so that’s how it works. Thanks very much!”
Full Article: Voting in China, a Distant Dream – NYTimes.com.