Dabbling in Democracy

On the morning of April 9, at 8:30 sharp, 257 residents of Zeguo township converged on a schoolhouse to decide the future of their community. According to the rules of the event, they had been randomly selected to represent a microcosm of their town of 240,000, which lies in a prosperous manufacturing area in China's Zhejiang province. Each had completed a questionnaire on local affairs as well as a poll in which they rated the desirability of 30 government-proposed infrastructure projects. Some giggled as they pinned on pink badges labeling them "popular-will representatives." But most fell silent when they entered the...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!