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Conflict Management through Controlled Elections: “Harmonising Interventions” by Party Work Teams in Chinese Village Elections

Ming Ma and Yi Kang
p. 65-75


This study explores a distinct type of electoral intervention, which we call “harmonising intervention,” by the Chinese local state to achieve the goal of securing the joint post of the village Party secretary and Village Committee director. It involves mediating conflicts through electoral interventions and using elections to create harmony. The research finds that through such interventions, the local state simultaneously accomplishes the legitimisation, information collection, elite co-optation, and clout demonstration functions of authoritarian elections. “Harmonising interventions” have obvious power concentration effects and strengthen local state control rather than village self-governance.

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Editor’s notes

Manuscript received on 11 May 2021. Accepted on 19 January 2022.


Full text document will be published online on September 2023.


Literature Review
Elections and conflict management
Vertical management in China
Harmonising intervention in village elections in county B
Gathering information through consultation and investigation
Ousting undesirable VPS candidates with a carrot-and-stick approach
Campaigning for the VPS as conflict prevention and resolution
Intervening continuously until the joint post was accomplished

First lines

After the “Organic Law of the Village Committee of the People’s Republic of China” was promulgated in 1987, elections to posts within the Village Committee (VC) were widely held in rural areas in China in the 1990s with the aim of consolidating the regime by solving the severe information asymmetry and principal-agent problems caused by multiple government layers and a large number of villages. Researchers find that elections can empower villagers to vote out corrupt village leaders and thus curb cadres’ predation and enhance local state accountability (O'Brien and Li 2000; Zhang et al. 2004; Wang and Yao 2007; Manion 2009).

Nonetheless, grassroots elections have impaired the ruling party’s ability to signal its strength in rural society and have often made existing conflicts in villages more evident or have triggered new conflicts (Hu 2005; Su et al. 2011; Wong, Tang, and Liu 2020). In some regions, informal groups and thugs manipulate elections (Tsai 2007; O'Brien and Han 2009; Mat...

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Bibliographical reference

Ming Ma and Yi Kang, “Conflict Management through Controlled Elections: “Harmonising Interventions” by Party Work Teams in Chinese Village Elections”China Perspectives, 2022/3 | 2022, 65-75.

Electronic reference

Ming Ma and Yi Kang, “Conflict Management through Controlled Elections: “Harmonising Interventions” by Party Work Teams in Chinese Village Elections”China Perspectives [Online], 2022/3 | 2022, Online since 01 September 2023, connection on 27 November 2022. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Ming Ma

Ming Ma is Assistant Professor in the Department of Nanjing School of Administration, 190 Lingshan North Road, Jiangsu, China. He received his PhD in government and international studies from Hong Kong Baptist University (

Yi Kang

Yi Kang is Associate Professor of government and international studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, Academic and Administration Building, Baptist University Road Campus, Hong Kong Baptist University, Kowloon Tong. She received her PhD in political science from Yale University. She is author of Disaster Management in China in a Changing Era (2015). She has published articles in Journal of Contemporary China, China Information, China Review, Food Control, Chinese Journal of Communication, International Journal of Conflict Management, VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, etc. (

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