Emory Report

February 23, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 22

Carter Center team returns
to China as election observers

At the invitation of the government of the People's Republic of China, The Carter Center will send a delegation to observe village elections March 2-15. In addition to evaluating village elections in Jilin and Lianing provinces, the nine-person team, led by Carter Center Fellow Robert Pastor, will also discuss a long-term agreement with the Ministry of Civil Affairs on election-related projects.

The mission will be the fourth visit by a Carter Center group in the past two years to discuss, observe or advise the Chinese government on elections. In March 1997 Pastor led a seven-person delegation to observe village elections in Fujian and Hebei provinces, and last July former President Jimmy Carter, former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, Stanford University Professor Michel Oksenberg and Pastor visited Beijing for talks with President Jiang Zemin and other high-level officials.

At a luncheon hosted by U.S. Ambassador James Sasser, Carter and Doje Cering, the minister of Civil Affairs, discussed further cooperation between the ministry and The Carter Center.

In a subsequent meeting, Vice Minister Xu Ruixin and Pastor discussed the projects, which include training of Chinese election officials in the United States and China by The Carter Center and high-level visits by ministry officials to the United States; development of a national computer system for collecting data and results on village elections; and advice from The Carter Center on developing uniform election procedures, producing civic education programs, publicizing election information in China, and disseminating analyses of Chinese elections in the United States and elsewhere.

Carter and the ministry confirmed the understanding with an exchange of letters. "We were pleased by our meetings in Beijing and by the government's continuing interest to improve the electoral process and develop a cooperative relationship with The Carter Center on election-related issues," said Carter. "The Carter Center's team will present proposals in these three areas, and we hope their discussions lead to a long-term agreement."

"Our team brings expertise in each of the areas," said Pastor. Jean Oi of Stanford University is one of the foremost experts on Chinese villages and Larry Diamond on elections and democracy throughout the world. Qingshan Tan and Tom Crick have worked on numerous elections with The Carter Center and are developing proposals on training and exchanges. Yawei Liu is coordinating an international team to develop a system that would permit the Ministry of Civil Affairs to collect and computerize election data. Also accompanying the group are photographer Jeffrey Aaronson and film-makers Sharon Baker and Pascall Dieckmann.

"We welcome the Chinese government's invitation to help improve the technical capacity of the villages to conduct competitive elections based on secret ballot," said Pastor. "If these elections can be improved and standardized throughout the nation, then they can be a strong foundation on which the government's plans for future higher-level elections can build."

-Carrie Harmon

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