Two existing models are used to conceptualize the constrained and limited participation in the communist system. The mobilization model suggests that participation was so mobilized by the party/state that it was largely meaningless, while the disengagement model supports the idea that many communist citizens adopted non-participatory behaviors such as non-voting as a means of protest. This paper attempts to demonstrate the importance of a third model – the emergent democratic culture model. The survey results show that the participation index is in proportion to the number of elections in which a villager is involved; and a growing number of voters in Zhejiang are developing citizen-initiated participation, with rights consciousness.
This research finds that the level of participation is influenced by three major factors: the perceived worth of the election itself, regularity of electoral procedures, and the fairness of electoral procedures. It also finds that parochial political culture and political apathy still exist, and the emergent democratic consciousness falls short of an ideal democratic standard. While a highly democratic culture helps to develop village democracy, the apathetic attitude continues to support the authoritarian leadership and structure in many villages. The paper also gives an account of survey research in rural China and offers a thoughtful critique of the use of voting and non-voting as the sole indicator of political participation.