I was interested in learning about village governance in Xizhou because I have experienced and learned about various types of governments such as Democracy and Communism. I believe it will be interesting to compare these forms of government to a miniscule village government. I plan to find out how this village is run, how leaders are elected/chosen, and what decisions they make. Additionally, I plan on asking the leaders and the citizens on what the leader's jobs are and how they lead the village.
Initially, I mainly used the internet and search engines to find information about Bai Village Governance. Most of the reliable sources I found were articles and documents published by universities and other organizations. At the village, I had three major sources that I amassed information from. One was a to-be village chief who was just recently elected, one was a former local politician and soldier. The last source was a person who had good relations and connections with the government. I chose these sources because I knew they were produced by professionals and had good credentials and reputation. Additionally the information provided will be accurate and up to date. These sources would be answering these kinds of questions I raised. What is the general structure of the village governance? What is the village chief's job? My last major question was what job does the village governance have? My main point that I hope to share with my audience is that the Chinese government is very unique and different from Western countries' government. I will describe the process of collecting information and talking to the villagers from Phase Zero all the way to Phase Three of the inquiry project.
Sharing My Learning
Village governance is a subject that has intrigued me since I began contemplating about prospective inquiry topics. When I was browsing through the long list of possible inquiry topics, village governance stood out for me. I believed that it would be a fascinating learning process in Xizhou. I had a plan. I would gather a massive amount of knowledge through a combination of interacting with local villagers and the Xizhou government. I was excited, ready to start the inquiry process.
I arrived in Xizhou optimistic about my inquiry project. It seemed to me that everything was in place and that I would cruise through the inquiry project process. I had meticulously combed through the internet for reliable sources and experts in the field, and had found valuable information on Chinese village governance in general. I also had a list of questions that needed to be answered during the inquiry process. Furthermore, I assembled a multitude of sources and information about the locations of major government buildings and landmakrs in the village through my three-to-five's.
I coasted through the first few phases and found many sources in the village who could provide great insight on village governance. My sources were people indirectly related to the government, as one was a to-be government official, one was a former politicial, and another had close ties to the government and was in almost daily contact with them. This is the information I amassed from these three sources.
The question of most importance that I stated is clearly inquiring about the role of the village government. The to-be village chief provided great insight. He stated that his governance consists of ten people who govern a village with a population of 365 people. Most of his work consists of solving the villager's problem and trying to help them improve their living standards. Everything that is built new in this village often goes through the governance first for their approval (ie: if theres a villager who wants to build a house, then the governance will go and survey the building site and check his/her credentials, paperwork, and if he or she has adequate funding and builders). Additionally, the governance is also striving to change the villagers' general point of view. Before, the villagers' point of view was to amass, accumulate more money. Now, the government wants the change that focus. They want to improve their standard of life (ie: better health care, education etc.)
The former government official also pitched in with this question. His job in the government was an approval official, giving approval for many things ranging from marriage to travelling. He said that the village governance only has a few main roles. Firstly, it gives permission for the villagers to do many important activites. Almost everything villagers build and do goes through the governance.
The village chief said that the governance strives to improve the villagers' way of life. The villagers have to pay a "rice tax" which is derived from the amount of crop harvested. It collects taxes and after a portion of the tax money goes to the Dali government and the Chinese Communist Party, the Xizhou government pays its' workers wages and also uses the remaining money to improve its citizens life such as repairing roads and refurbishing common areas such as Si Fang Jie. Additionally, the government never makes any rules. It only carries out the rules implimented and created by the upper levels of government. Mr. Duan also mentioned that corruption has steadily increased since the Mao Ze Dong era to now.
My second major question was how are the village chiefs decided. This question was quickly completely answered by the new village chief, as he is about to obtain the job. He also confirmed my prediction that the village governance was decided by a popular vote. He said before, it was inherited. The village chief's son would be the next village chief after the current one steps down or passes on. He explained that that system was not fair and it did not give everyone a fair chance. Now, he said that this current system is better. He was elected in an election in which all citizens 18 and older could participate in.
The third preeminent question was regarding the structure of the village government. This query was answered by the general manager, my third source of information. He said that the Xizhou Government is divided into two main parts. There is the regular government office, which oversees the daily operations of the various departments of government, which include human resources, social security ministry, civil affairs, statistics office, archives office, education, administrative logistics, science/technology, culture, health, land and resources, and lastly, environmental protection. Overseeing the entire government office is the Communist Party , the Party members and the discipline inspection and supervision department. These two departments make sure that the government office is doing things in line with the "big" Chinese government and acting as a "police" for the government, making sure that there is relatively no corruption.
This rounded out my sources outside of the government. The inquiry process was going extremely smoothly so far. I had three very reliable sources of information and I collected a great deal of information, but sometimes, one source would contradict the other and the information was based off of memory and off of people. I wanted to "dig deeper" by talking to the official government to find out the complete picture about the governance.
After collecting a prodigious amount of information from these sources, I set out to talk to the local Xizhou government. We attempted to visit the local government and ask a few questions regarding their government through a person who had good relations and connections with the government. However, the government refused to answer our questions and chose not to talk to us. We were intrigued by the governance's response and asked the person why this was. He answered because being foreigners, we were not treated the same as a Chinese citizen. We would need to have an introductory form run through many levels of government all the way up to the prefecture level for approval and then back down to the village level government. On top of that, we would need a form filled out by the school and it would haveto show that our intentions are only positive. There are many possibilities of why this has occured. This is possibly because of the current sensitivity of the government. As I found out, the government is currently undergoing a leadership change as the former president Hu Jin Tao hands over power to Xi Jin Ping. These are relatively sensitive times for local governments in general. People of another country who ask questions about the government might be assumed as having a motive other than learning purposes (which was our motive). Additionally, the government officials might be concerned about their job security and wanted to avoid falling out of line. They probably would have nothing to gain by talking to a pair of 13 year old 8th graders.
However, I am not trying to attack the Chinese government in any way. There is complete understanding of why we were asked to go through proper authorization process. This has changed our inquiry project in a big way. My approach has taken a major turn and is now different from what I started out. My main point that I hope to share with my audience is that the Chinese government is very unique and different from Western countries' government. The process of collecting information and talking to the villagers is in Phase Three of the inquiry project. Additionally, I will share this thesis by describing the learning process I went through. Also, I want to share how I came to this conclusion.
My audience for this is foreigners living in Shanghai because they may not know about the government in which they live in. I want them to obtain a new perspective on the Chinese Government on the local level from my inquiry project. Additionally, they have not been exposed to China and Asia much in general and I plan to change this with my inquiry project on governance. I plan to show them the drastic differences the local Chinese government has from a local western country government. I will also share information about the village governance I amassed from sources other than the village government. This includes information from former local politicials and to-be government officials. Some background information preceding the project will also be shared. The best type of media for the project is essay because it describes my ideas and learning process the best way. Additionally, I can express my opinion and my point of view better this way. I need to describe my inquiry project, the situation and the government in as much detail as possible and I believe that the essay media will suit my needs in the best way.
I took away a lot of valuable life lessons from this experience. I have gained a new perspective on what learning is. Learning is not only in the classroom, poring over textbooks and websites looking for information. It is also about making connections, interacting with experts and people and learning from them in person. Additionally, I have improved substantially from this experience. I have developed better study habits and time management skills. I am no longer a huge procrastinator and I manage my time much more effectively than before. This greatly helped with my inquiry subject.
My topic changed considerably over the course of my study. I began with a few straightforward approach with the topic of village governance. I had a few questions about what the village governance's role was and I sought to answer them. However, I then attempted to interact and interview the actual Xizhou government about the governance's job and was surprisingly turned down. This is why my topic changed over the course of my studies. During this process of trying to obtain authorization, I ran into many obstacles and difficulties along the road. The most difficult part of my research however, was the process of getting the authorization to talk and interact with the village governance itself. It was a complicated process which required a form that required school permission and then needed to be run up many levels of government from the prefecture level all the way back down to the village level government before obtaining approval.
Before that, however, we had to find the village government building itself. There was one major breakthrough moment when I made a major discovery and it was when we found the location of the village government building in the western part of the village. It was a substantial step forward for me over the course of the inquiry process.
The inquiry process itself was very helpful to me. The inquiry project considerably helped me understand village governance in a greater detail by uncovering previously unknown information and approaches about the Chinese government. Additionally, I gained a much more significant understanding about Chinese government at the village level. I now know the general structure of the Chinese village governance. Most importantly, I learned why the government is so closed up to the outside world and why they refused our interview request.
During the inquiry process, I had to interact with many types of people, ranging from teenagers to elderly seniors. Moreover, there were a few language barriers as they did not understand English and I did not understand the Bai ethnic language. Through this process, I learned to have resilience and perseverance when faced with a set back in my project. I also learned to have more courage when I talk and interact with people for the first time. I also reflected on what I could have done better earlier. I would have done more research on the Chinese government in general and I would have also researched what kind of paperwork and how many approvals are needed in order for a student to talk to the Chinese government about its job. If another student were to continue this research projects, there could be many directions this project could take. One possibility is to go directly to the village governance and interact with them. Another alternative is to research in depth about the openness of the Chinese government to foreigners and what they are allowed and not allowed to know.
Lastly, there are many helpful people I would like to thank. First of all, Mr. T, who pointed out many useful sources for me. His dedication and expertise is greatly appreciated, Secondly, the three major sources that cannot be named here, the former official and soldier, the village chief, and the manager gave me extremely in depth insight about my topic. Their willingness to help me and interact with me is thankfully acknowledged.