TAIYUAN, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Kazakh student Arailym Shpekbayeva has recently witnessed a grassroots election in north China's Shanxi Province.
The election saw Dazhai Village, located on the Loess Plateau, elect its leadership for the next five years, and Shpekbayeva said she was very much impressed by the spirit of Chinese-style democracy as shown in the election.
Shpekbayeva, a postgraduate student studying at the Taiyuan University of Technology in Shanxi, has been living in China for four years now. She said she was "lucky" to have seen the election proceedings in the village, and was intrigued after she learned about Dazhai's iconic role in China's development.
Dazhai was once deemed a national "pace-setter village" of agriculture. Back in the 1960s, Chairman Mao had called on all people in rural China to learn from the village's farming experience -- high-yielding terrace farming on barren hillsides was a symbol of victory over natural hurdles.
On the polling day on Nov. 10, Dazhai dwellers started coming into the villagers' committee office, which was temporarily designated as the polling booth, from 8:30 a.m.
After registration, the total number of eligible voters aged above 18 came in at 447. Each voter was given three ballot tickets -- one for director of the villagers' committee, one for deputy director, and the other for three members.
Before election day, eight candidates had been selected through a preliminary process to contest for these positions. The voters only had to tick off their preferred choices from the candidate list on the ballot.
Shpekbayeva noticed that some eligible voters were absent, and upon querying she was told by a polling staffer that some senior and disabled villagers were unable to come to the polling station. However, after the on-site vote, sealed ballot boxes would be carried to absent voters' houses to make sure every vote counts.
"This democratic election is an example of grassroots governance," said Shpekbayeva.
The polling ended and after ballot counting, the incumbent head of the villagers' committee, Jia Chunsheng, was re-elected. Expressing his gratitude to the villagers for their trust in him, Jia said he will continue to work hard to serve the villagers and lead them to live better lives.
Song Liying, 92, voted from home. "Our village started to set up village-owned companies in the 1990s. We have been living better lives with sustainable development. The success is due to the efforts made by our villagers' committee," she said.
Today, people in Dazhai no longer rely solely on farming for their livelihood as the region has burgeoned as a tourism destination.
Dazhai's captivating landscape and its scenic beauty have attracted about 10 million visitors, including over 25,000 foreigners from nearly 130 countries over the past years.
Hao Miaomiao, a member of the village branch of the Communist Party of China, told Shpekbayeva that having obtained her postgraduate degree in June this year, she found a job in the Party branch of Dazhai through a talent exchange program.
The 26-year-old believes that young people like her can bring new ideas for rural development. "I feel I lack work experience in addressing practical tasks in the village, so I need to keep learning."
Thanks to the development of eco-tourism, the economic output of Dazhai exceeded 23 million yuan (about 3.6 million U.S. dollars) in 2020, with the per-capita income reaching 26,000 yuan.
"Through my observations in the village, the Chinese form of grassroots self-governance has spurred villagers' enthusiasm for self-management, decision-making, and common development," said Shpekbayeva.