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...

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