The villagers of Wukan, Guangdong Province, which made headlines for its protest last year, elected an 11-member election committee Wednesday, marking a major step in choosing a new leadership and drawing praise from Western media.
However, democratic village elections have been around in China for more than 10 years. While self-governance is a reality in China's rural areas, it is strange that Western media have attached so much significance to the election in Wukan.
This is probably because Western journalists in China know little about the reality of China's rural areas. A journalist with the Wall Street Journal wrote that elections in other villages were strictly controlled by the Communist Party. He has probably never seen for himself what China's village-level elections look like, or may have purposely been catering to the tastes of Western readers.
In fact, village-level elections in rural areas enjoy a great deal of freedom, to the extent that clans and gangs are said to have affected election results in some places. But Wukan's successful election this time was supervised by external forces, including those of the government, to ensure fairness and prevent the vote-buying that blighted the previous election.
Some Western media have even said that other villages might follow Wukan's suit and thus threaten the order at grass-roots levels.
It seems that the Western media are using Wukan's election to criticize China's democracy. They are attempting to erase all the achievements China has made in improving its democracy by regarding Wukan's election as the first and only one to have taken place.
China has carried out a great deal of reforms and exploration in terms of grass-roots democracy in recent years. The concept of democracy is becoming deeply rooted in people's minds and is affecting China in various ways.
Democracy has a long way to go in China. But it also hasn't yet reached its ultimate goal elsewhere in the world. The progress of democracy in China will not take place in isolation. It is closely connected to the development of the legal system and other social factors. And above all, it has to be made within the boundaries of the constitution.
China cannot be understood by focusing on the small details, something Western media would do well to appreciate.
Wukan residents take first step in electing new village leadership