University of Southampton Students
Start Date
Total Number of Participants


Deliberative practice of Chinese local community - Dongying City ,Shandong Province

May 7, 2023 zz17u22
May 7, 2023 Paul Emiljanowicz
March 15, 2023 Paolo Spada
March 15, 2023 zz17u22
January 20, 2023 zz17u22
December 7, 2022 zz17u22
December 1, 2022 zz17u22
University of Southampton Students
Start Date
Total Number of Participants

The Xinxing community, situated in China, has centered its efforts on two primary domains: consultation structures and deliberative processes. This approach has led to enhanced accuracy and sophistication in community governance and service provision.

This case study was developed by Haifeng Zhang, Mingyang Zhang, Xiaoyu Zhang and Zihan Zhang during the class Collective Intelligence at Southampton University in the Fall of 2022.

Problems and Purpose

Despite residents' complaints about property problems, The Xinxing community in Shandong Province property management failed to offer timely solutions. In response, the community's party organization sought guidance from professionals, who assessed the situation and suggested that the Xinxing community would be an ideal pilot site for deliberative voting. Local consultative democracy is a key priority for China's development, as it entails not only political communication between the government and citizens, but also discussions among diverse interest groups within society. Thus, the reforms being implemented in the Xinxing community embody the principles of local consultative democracy.

Background History and Context

In the 1990s, the Xinxing community, including the Qing Sheng district, served as a residential area for employees and their families of Sinopec Shengli Oilfield Co. The company established a management group to oversee the living area, which was directly accountable to the company. However, with the restructuring of the company, the living area underwent a transformation, becoming a community with its own management responsibility. Consequently, the residents transitioned from being "unit people" to "community people." Unfortunately, due to the age of the housing stock and the limited upkeep of public facilities, the community experienced significant deterioration. Additionally, the aging population made communication between residents and property management challenging, and conflicts between neighbors were commonplace. Despite numerous negotiation efforts by property owners, the root of the problem remained unaddressed. The Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee advocated for "building, governing, and sharing together." In response, the Xinxing Community Party Organization recognized that independent resident participation was vital for promoting sustainable community governance. The party organization actively promotes the construction of consultative democracy, encouraging residents to shift their mindset and take part in community self-service and self-management. As they strive to foster consultative democracy, the party organization adheres to the approach of "coming from the masses and going to the masses," guiding residents to participate in community affairs.

Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

With the guidance of the party organization, the Xinxing community established a district council, a grid council, and a building council. This democratic council structure covers the entire district and is led by party members or key residents. All parties involved in the consultation process are integrated into the platform structure in an organized manner. A council member who has received professional training and has experience facilitating public sector meetings serves as the meeting facilitator. However, since it was the community's first democratic consultation meeting, two government staff members with training in such matters were invited to guide the discussions and ensure the smooth running of the initiative. The coordinator took appropriate action only when unforeseen circumstances arose. The primary sources of public funding for the community include property fees paid by residents and the government's Community Improvement Fund. Under the new democratic consultation system, any matter involving significant amounts of money is discussed. The community funds are mainly held by the community property and monitored by all community members.

Participant Recruitment and Selection

The conference participants were chosen through a stratified random sampling method. In an effort to ensure that the allocation of funds and resources was equitable, the selection process took age into account as the main characteristic. The Council viewed this approach as a reasonable one, as it resulted in a more even and comprehensive distribution of information (de Vries, 1986). Given the size of the community population, the number of participants for the inaugural meeting was set at 60.

Methods and Tools Used

The organizers modified the deliberative polling approach to support decision making in a local community. The method used a combination of social media engagement, polling methods, stakeholder enegagement, deliberation and voting to create a participatory and deliberative minipublic

What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

In April 2020, the new community held its inaugural consultation meeting since the establishment of the democratic consultation system. Issues were collected through various channels. Grid team leaders, property staff, and block leaders employed methods such as social media, posters, bulletin boards, and questionnaires to gather issues primarily related to the use and allocation of community resources and public funds.

This multi-tiered platform structure effectively facilitated the collection and flow of information, often achieving the desired deliberative effect (Tang, 2015). Two weeks after the issue collection commenced, the Community Proposal Public Deliberation Committee received all the issues.

The three main topics identified for the first consultation meeting were the utilization of unused community spaces, pet ownership in public areas, and road improvements. A week before the official meeting, residents received an invitation letter detailing the meeting time and specific consultation content.

The first meeting was devoted to voting on these three main topics. It was held on a Saturday morning and was scheduled to last three hours. The moderator delivered a PowerPoint presentation on each topic, and members voted on the three main issues. Next, the facilitator conducted 30-minute free discussions on each topic in random groups of 10 people. Afterward, members cast secret ballots to determine the main solutions to the problems.

A second meeting was held a week later. This time, representatives of professional bodies were brought in to determine the specific implementation of the solutions identified in the first meeting, discussing details and the use of funds. Property companies and professional bodies proposed these renovation options, and the representatives deliberated in groups to determine which measures to adopt.

Unlike the first meeting, the free discussion at the second meeting was divided into two parts. In the first discussion, representatives initially discussed the measures' details and recorded queries. In the second discussion, the professional and property representatives answered all questions raised, including issues of public interest.

Afterward, a second free discussion commenced, during which participants revisited the issues. Finally, participants voted on specific solutions to the three issues. The last vote was noteworthy, with over 70% of the votes cast in favor of utilizing unused spaces and pet ownership in public areas. The issue of road improvements passed the final vote with a narrow margin of 58%.

In the end, the three main issues of the first democratic consultation meeting of the Xinxing community were resolved under the joint supervision of the communist party organization and residents. This can be seen as an integration of deliberative procedures within China's local governance procedures.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The importance of consultation mechanisms is becoming increasingly evident in Xinxing communities. Democratic consultation provides a platform for local residents to voice their concerns, discuss conflicts, and work together to find solutions. It also promotes improved group relations (Kim et al., 2018).

The democratic consultation system in the Xinxing community has greatly improved the transparency and efficiency of the community's work. Issues and solutions are identified, and consultation meetings are organized where the budget and methods for each job are presented to the people, giving them the right to choose. Consultative activities enable citizens to participate fully in public governance (Boulianne, 2018). The facilitator plays a crucial role in guiding the flow of the meeting, maintaining pace, guiding participants to express their opinions and queries, and reaching a mutual understanding with participants.

Democratic consultation to a certain extent promotes social justice and modernization of the national governance system and capacity. Through democratic consultation meetings, unanimously adopted programs and measures in the Xinxing community have yielded effective results. For example, the conversion of the community's campus into an activity area for residents, the installation of a planting area and a multi-functional activity room, and other measures have made full use of community resources to meet the recreational needs of residents and promote friendly daily exchanges among residents. These measures have strengthened residents' sense of participation and identification with the community, improving the integration of community values. The implementation of the civilized dog rules has also received collective support from the community. The staggered dog walking times have reduced dog-to-dog conflicts and enhanced the community's safety and environment. The issue of road maintenance has also been addressed successfully. Repairs to the pavement and tiled flooring have facilitated residents' access and enhanced safety. These three issues adopted through the consultative voting system have brought convenience to the lives of community residents and contributed to the building of a harmonious community. The democratic consultation system has been unanimously supported by residents. 

Analysis and Lessons Learned

In the following section, Graham Smith's analytical framework will be used to analyze this case through the lens of six 'democratic goods' (Smith, 2009).

In terms of inclusiveness, the stratified random sample of 60 people provided a good representation of different age groups. Furthermore, the participation rate in this meeting was 90%, indicating that the residents supported the democratic consultation system. However, both meetings took longer than expected, which can be attributed to two main reasons. Firstly, it was the first time that most residents had attended this type of meeting and were not familiar with the process. Secondly, the level of knowledge among residents was uneven. For example, in the discussion of the common room, residents were not aware of the prices of raw materials and indoor facilities and spent a long time discussing costs. Additionally, as most residents were elderly, they were less receptive to information. Therefore, training on the topics discussed is essential to improve the level of participation of representatives and make the consultation more inclusive. 

Regarding popular control, the Xinxing community residents were actively involved in every stage of problem collection, identification, and solution formation. The moderator did not interfere in the decision-making process during the meeting and extended the discussion time when necessary. The deliberative polling process was transparent and had a representative scrutineer. However, the level of control that residents had in the finalization of issues was low. While the Community Proposals Public Deliberation Committee was responsible for summarizing and determining issues by majority, residents had limited monitoring power in this process. Increasing the level of control of residents in the issue-determination process is crucial to improve the democratization level further. In conclusion, while residents' representatives had high control in the deliberative voting process, there was a low level of control in the finalization of issues. Enhancing residents' participation in the decision-making process is essential to further improve the democratic process in this case.

In the case of Considered judgment, inequalities in education, skills and and knowledge about each topic generated unequal participation. Although resident representatives were well represented, not everyone actively spoke up during the discussion time. Also, the 'art of speaking' was an important influencing factor. It was evident at this meeting that fluent and clear statements were more likely to be accepted, limiting the ability of residents to make considered judgments. The ability to speak in public is important for democratic consultation, especially in the discussion process (Kohn, 2000).

He and Warren (2011) suggest that authoritarian rule in China has influenced various deliberative practices. However, in this case, we argue that it has not had a significant impact on the deliberative voting process. Although many of the organizational members involved in issue collection are Communist Party members, they mainly function as exemplary party members and do not attempt to control the consultation and voting process.

In terms of transparency, the case has achieved satisfactory results. Community organizations have used a combination of online and offline methods to make information and meeting results public, including social media accounts, community bulletin boards, and leaflets. Even residents who did not attend the meeting could access details through these means.

However, the main transparency issue is in the monitoring of the solution measures. For example, in the case of pavement improvement, the proposal was negotiated between the community property and the professional body, and residents only expressed their opinions on the measures during the second meeting. The lack of supervision in finding a professional body by the community property resulted in some residents expressing distrust in this decision.

Therefore, while this case has maintained a high level of transparency during the idea generation phase, it did not achieve good level of transparency during the implementation phase.

In terms of efficiency, while this case addressed the three main issues, the costs and outputs were higher than expected. Firstly, the sample size of representatives was larger than the maximum capacity of the community's public meeting room, resulting in both meetings being held in rented rooms outside the community, incurring unanticipated expenses.

Secondly, the case lacked input from resident representatives. There was no training provided for residents after the introduction of the new democratic consultation system. Finkel (2003) found that training in citizen values, attitudes, and skills can increase citizen motivation and democratize the system.

Thirdly, there is inadequate investment in the training of community organizers. Community organizers lack web-related knowledge, and tasks related to online issue collection, public account operation, and online information disclosure are currently being carried out by young volunteers within the community. Li (2015) argues that online consultative democracy is crucial for the development of democratic politics in China, and the web is an important platform for citizens to express their views and monitor. Insufficient investment in both organizers and participants affects the democratic and effective nature of meeting processes and deliberative voting. Therefore, the Xinxing community needs to invest more in organizers and participants to enhance democratization. 

Finally, in terms of transferability, we believe that the practice of deliberative voting in Xinxing communities is worthy of being drawn upon. First, the current level of local democratization in China is low (Devas and Delay, 2006). Promoting local democratization reforms requires building new institutional approaches. Transferability is important in democratic consultation innovations because transferability is related to region and context and is more conducive to use in smaller settings like communities (Wright, 2012). Secondly, the flat structure and ease of operation of deliberative voting are characteristics that are suitable for replication in other parts of China that are similar to the case. However, cultural differences need to be discussed. Culture can have an impact on institutions. There is no clear evidence in this case that this applies equally to areas with very different cultures. Therefore, the paper argues that the experience of the case can be replicated to some extent in northern China.

 In sum, the Xinxing community's deliberative voting system is a successful practice of local democracy. China's authoritarian political system, has been effective in enhancing the democratic governance of residents. Stimulating citizens' sense of self-governance is an important means of improving local democratization, and both the experience and lessons of the case are worth learning from and learning from other regions of China.

See Also

Deliberative Polling:


Acharya, A.S. et al. (2013) “Sampling: Why and how of it?,” Indian Journal of Medical Specialities, 4(2). Available at:


Berndt, A. E. (2020). Sampling methods. Journal of Human Lactation36(2), 224-226. Available at:

Boulianne, S., 2018. Mini-publics and public opinion: Two survey-based experiments. Political Studies, 66(1), pp.119-136.

Devas, N. and Delay, S. (2006) “Local democracy and the challenges of decentralising the state: An international perspective,” Local Government Studies, 32(5), pp. 677–695. Available at:

Ergenc, C. (2014) “Political efficacy through deliberative participation in urban China: A case study on public hearings,” Journal of Chinese Political Science, 19(2), pp. 191–213. Available at:

Fishkin, J.S. et al. (2010) “Deliberative democracy in an unlikely place: Deliberative polling in China,” British Journal of Political Science, 40(2), pp. 435–448. Available at:

Finkel, S.E. (2003) “Can democracy be taught?,” Journal of Democracy, 14(4), pp. 137–151. Available at:

Gentles, D. and Sankaranarayanan, S. (2012) “Application of biometrics in Mobile voting,” International Journal of Computer Network and Information Security, 4(7), pp. 57–68. Available at:


He, B. and Warren, M.E. (2011) “Authoritarian deliberation: The deliberative turn in Chinese political development,” Perspectives on Politics, 9(2), pp. 269–289. Available at:


Kim, N., Fishkin, J.S. and Luskin, R.C., 2018. Intergroup contact in deliberative contexts: Evidence from deliberative polls. Journal of Communication, 68(6), pp.1029-1051.

Kohn, M. (2000) “Language, power, and persuasion: Toward a critique of deliberative democracy,” Constellations, 7(3), pp. 408–429. Available at:

Li, H. (2015). The Modernization of Government Governance: Practice and Exploration of the Network Deliberative Democracy. Cross-Cultural Communication11(11), 132-135. 


Reynolds, A. and Steenbergen, M. (2006) “How the world votes: The political consequences of ballot design, innovation and manipulation,” Electoral Studies, 25(3), pp. 570–598. Available at:


Schoenmakers, B. (1999) “A simple publicly verifiable secret sharing scheme and its application to electronic voting,” Advances in Cryptology — CRYPTO’ 99, pp. 148–164. Available at:


Smith, G. (2009). Democratic innovations: Designing institutions for citizen participation. Cambridge University Press.

Tang, B. (2015) “Deliberating governance in Chinese Urban Communities,” The China Journal, 73, pp. 84–107. Available at:

de Vries, P.G. (1986) “Stratified random sampling,” Sampling Theory for Forest Inventory, pp. 31–55. Available at:

Wright, S., 2012. Assessing (e-) democratic innovations:“Democratic goods” and downing street e-petitions. Journal of Information Technology & Politics9(4), pp.453-470.

Zhang, X., Zhang, J.-Z. and Xie, S.-C. (2019) “A secure quantum voting scheme based on quantum group Blind Signature,” International Journal of Theoretical Physics, 59(3), pp. 719–729. 

External Links

Link to the electronic version of the government magazine(p25-28):