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Carter Center Hosts Chinese Delegation to Witness U.S. Elections in San Francisco, Washington, D.C.

A Chinese delegation hosted by The Carter Center is studying today's U.S. election in the San Francisco and Washington, D.C., areas to learn more about election procedures and reduce misperceptions by the Chinese of the American democratic system

"The idea is to expose the group to as many aspects of the election process as we can to show them that democracy and elections are about people," said Yawei Liu, director of the Carter Center's China Program. "It's not something that - as is the common media viewpoint in China – is manipulated by Wall Street financiers or by political party bosses. It's a grassroots action, a mobilization process, about how to convince people that you are the right person to be their leader."

Officials from China's Ministry of Civil Affairs and scholars from Chinese universities make up the study mission. When selecting delegates, The Carter Center looks for officials responsible for village elections in their regions in China and scholars who have a basic understanding of the U.S. political system and are doing research on or trying to promote democratization in China.

This is the fifth time that The Carter Center has hosted Chinese officials and scholars to analyze U.S. elections.

Prior to election day, the group met with political parties, followed party activists during voter canvassing, learned about electronic voting technologies, and visited election boards to see how different counties handle the elections.

Delegates take away a new perspective of American democracy and sometimes write about what they saw. In 2005, they published a book in Chinese about what they observed during the 2000 elections.

"There's one professor who came here and before visiting polling stations we took him to Ebenezer Church and The King Center," said Liu. "He said he cried during the documentary shown there about African-Americans gaining the right to vote. He didn't realize it was so hard, even in an established democracy like the United States, to go through the long process so that all American people are entitled to vote. And that also made him realize that democracy in China is also going to be a long, hard road."

For a decade, at the invitation of the Chinese government, The Carter Center has worked to help standardize electoral procedures in China and foster better governance in local communities. In addition to holding elections in some 600,000 villages, China conducts direct elections of township and county People's Congress deputies, allowing 75 percent of the nation's 1.3 billion people to elect their local leaders and representatives, who in the United States would be city council members.

Christine Yuan and Cong Riyun complete the observer checklist as polls open in Falls Church, Va. Carter Center Photos: D. Hakes

Carter Center delegates Christine Yuan and Cong Riyun complete the observer checklist as polls open Nov. 4 in Falls Church, Va.
Heather Saul and Xu Jialiang watch the electoral process. Carter Center China Program Associate Heather Saul and Xu Jialiang, professor at Beijin Normal University, watch the electoral process at the Walter Reed Community Center polling station in Arlington, Va.
Voters wait for polls to open at a polling station in Falls Church, Va. Voters wait for polls to open at a polling station in Falls Church, Va. Chinese delegates saw lines at the locations they visited first thing in the morning.

Learn more about the Carter Center's China Program >

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