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Whenever any topic is discussed about China, either with friends or over the internet, it always boils down to the government type in China. In fact, it always comes down to an absolutely authoritarian government or a dictatorship rule in China.

I have not understood how elections are conducted in the country.

Is China a Republic? If so how could it be authoritarian, or a dictatorship?

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    what's your research? have you read wiki's China page, for example? Chinese Communist Party (CCP) page? – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Mar 22 at 17:15
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    Welcome to Politics.SE. This question is currently too broad to be answerable in Stack Exchange format. Ref to the last question, you might check how many political parties are actually present in China: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_China , just as a start. – Alexei Mar 22 at 17:36
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    @Alexei Clearly not, I see a few good answers here. Can we stop with these kinds of useless comments? Just downvote or vote to close. – user91988 Mar 24 at 15:33
  • @user91988, If you downvote, someone is just going to post a comment asking why if you don't state why. Also, I'm not sure how clear it is to the poster what's going on when a question is voted on for closure. – JPhi1618 Mar 24 at 16:54
  • @Alexei's reasoning doesn't make sense though, and they're presenting themself as if they have some sort of authority here. So annoying. Let the mods do their job. – user91988 Mar 24 at 17:11
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Elections in China (PRC) are hierarchical. Local districts can elect representatives, however a complex system of committees and primary elections ensures that only Communist-party backed candidates can appear in the election.

Higher levels of government are chosen by local government groups, further ensuring that the Communist Party retains control. Thus the elections are not free and fair. China (PRC) is not a democracy.

It is authoritarian because the election processes effectively prevent a second political group from having power. Moreover the party acts to prevent critics. It controls the press and limits access to the internet, for example. While the leader can change, the party cannot.

China is a republic because leadership isn't passed from parent to child, as in a monarchy. It is not a democracy because free elections are not held to choose the leaders.

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  • Have their been protests in China by the natives regarding the elections? – Noeshel Mar 22 at 17:23
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    Please do some basic research before adding further questions. You might start with "Tiananmen square protests". – James K Mar 22 at 17:25
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    This may be a different question entirely but why do we describe China as authoritarian and not ourselves when we - the US - are also a republic with similar restrictions on who can run and win? – J Doe Mar 24 at 18:15
  • @JDoe Is "completely normal, day-to-day, American hypocrisy" a valid answer? :) – Asteroids With Wings Mar 24 at 19:33
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Hannah Arendt in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism writes about how both Communist and non-communist Authoritarian regimes operate, and one of the Key features is that the political party in charge elevates itself above the State and as a result create institutions with deliberately murky and overlapping powers, the party then presides to undermine its own institutions. This means that power in concentrated in people and not the offices that people hold. Additionally the Party seeks to create a monopoly on truth in the society. These states are republics in the sense that they claim to be supported and in the interest of the people.

So how does this dynamic play out practically in China? In regards to the monopoly on truth it means that the media in china is controlled by the CCP(Chinese Communist Party) with the only news papers and TV broadcasting stations owned by high level members of the CCP being allowed to operate. But it does farther acording to freedomhouse "Internet censorship and surveillance reached new extremes during the year, driven in part by the CCP’s determination to suppress discussion of the 30th anniversary of the June 1989 military crackdown on prodemocracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Restrictions were placed on apolitical social media platforms, and more ordinary users faced account closures and criminal prosecutions for political, social, religious, and humorous speech." Additionally pressure to toe the party line can come from employers who threat to fire individuals who speak out. Or the CCP might simply choose to "disappear" deserters in order to avoid public attention.

The CCP additionally gates-keeps political and economic power through control of membership. While the CCP says anyone can run for office in reality only members of the CCP chosen for their loyalty are allowed to run for office unopposed similarly Judges are handpicked by the CCP and are beholden and loyal to the party and not the state. Finally because the government(and thus the party) plays such a large role in the Chinese economy it can advantage its own privileging its own and making longstanding party affiliation and economic assets.

In this way the China goes through the motions of elections, but the outcomes are preordained by the party, organizing an opposition is difficult and dangerous for all involved and running a political campaign is near impossible and likely illegal.

Freedom house Freedom in the world report 2020 https://freedomhouse.org/country/china/freedom-world/2020

Amnesty International Report of China https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/asia-and-the-pacific/china/report-china/

hannah arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism

Joe Studwell, How Asia Works: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region

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  • That's precisely the point made in Xi Jinping: The Backlash, by McGregor. More critical of Xi himself than China, he claims that Xi's corruption campaign is run by the CCP and bypassing normal laws and institutions. What's good/bad is whatever the party says it is, basically. On top of that, he's been ruthlessly purging the CCP itself, so what's good/bad ends up being what Xi says. It's an interesting read, even if it seems really biased against Xi. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Mar 22 at 22:00
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Perhaps contrary to common belief, there are (actually lots) of competitive & relatively free elections held in China, especially in the 2007-2012 reform era. However, those were limited to the local level, and the elected officials had little influence at higher levels.

Competitive and relatively free elections are held at the village level. Under Chinese law (Articles 30 and 111 of the PRC constitution), villages do not constitute administrative units (i.e., there is no "village-level government"), and are instead "organs of local autonomy".

Every village has a Villager's Committee, and members serve terms of 5 years. Those elections are relatively free, in that every villager over the age of 18 can run, and there's no pre-approved list of candidates. Committee members have vast powers over the administration of the village, and has some oversight over the policies of the local township government. However, there are lots of problems with this system: corruption & nepotism is an apparent one, and elected officials are often subject to pressure from the local township and/or county government.

The elections for local People's Congresses, i.e., legislature, remain under tight control. The elections are competitive, but all the candidates are pre-approved by local government and party organs. Very occasionally, non-pre-approved candidates somehow make it into the list of candidates, but those candidates are often pressured, sometimes violently.

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  • Could you expand the last paragraph with an example? Would the rare non-pre-approved candidate be a known name to a substantial proportion of voters? Is the ballot even secret, or does the pressure extend to voter intimidation? – Jirka Hanika Mar 24 at 9:21

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