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Directed by Weijun Chen and Produced by Don Edkins, the movie titled Please, vote for me depicts an experiment set in a Chinese school, where three candidates were chosen among the local three-graders to run for being the class monitor. In the course of the election campaign, the students attempted at tricking their target audience into voting for them by displaying their numerous skills, as well as trying rhetoric: “Those who don’t support me, please, pity and vote for me” (Edkins & Chen, 2007, 00:15:07) and trying to create a stronger bond with their classmates: “Ah! My brother! Good karma!” (Edkins & Chen, 2007, 00:15:23).
One of the candidates receives a piece of advice from his parents concerning luring his friends into voting for him by offering them a trip by monorail (Edkins & Chen, 2007). At the end of the race for class presidency, Luo Lei, the boy, who offered his fellow students a ride by monorail, wins the competition and the other students turn upset about their misfortune. The movie ends with the teacher summing up the lesson that the students have learned and pointing out the fact that partnership and cooperation must make the foundation for democratic elections, whereas treachery and rivalry are to be eliminated in the environment of democracy and clarity.
Discussion: The Movie and the Chinese Society
The issues raised in the short movie in question, in fact, echo with the problems that the Chinese society is experiencing at the moment. Because of a rigid political system that does not allow people to make democratic choices, the Chinese population suffers from being underrepresented in the state government. As a result, the interests of the Chinese population are not taken into account when the avenues for improving the state policies are designed.
On the one hand, the exercise, which was practiced in the Chinese school, is far from what democracy stands for; in fact, in many ways, the avenues that the students resorted to taking in order to win their classmates over is on the exact opposite side of the true meaning of democracy. Particularly, the point, at which one of the candidates for becoming the class president started inciting his classmates to sabotage the election campaign of one of his opponents, deserves to be mentioned.
On the other hand, though, the movie features a glimmer of hope even in the scenario chosen by researchers for the experiment. Specifically, the point at which the above-mentioned candidate attempted at apologizing to his peer, whose election campaign he nearly ruined: “I apologize to you for Luo Lei” (Edkins & Chen, 2007, 00:11:44). Therefore, in many respects, the experiment displayed that democracy can exist in the Chinese society as long as the appropriate values are integrated into the community and children understand the reasons for elections to be held. The latter aspect seems to be a major issue, as the experiment has shown that a lot of Chinese children do not have the slightest idea about what democracy is (Edkins & Chen, 2007).
The above-mentioned discrepancies in the election process in the setting of a small Chinese school, in fact, allow for understanding the way, in which the Chinese education system promotes social stratification and blocks the democratic processes from occurring in the specified setting. To be more exact, the movie in question shows clearly that the students’ actions, as well as their future political and economic choices, are informed by the ideas that their parents promote to them as proper and worth following.
By registering the pieces of advice given to them by their parents as the ones that are worth complying with, the Chinese students unconsciously accept the political mind frame that eliminates the slightest possibility for democracy to occur in the Chinese society. Particularly, the movie displays the effects that ill-advised ideas may have on the process of establishing democracy within the Chinese society. For instance, there is a point in the movie, at which one of the students confesses to the teacher that his mother suggested him to boo one of the candidates in order to reduce the competition rates and, therefore, get a more favorable position in the race for class monitoring (Edkins & Chen, 2007).
While the specified example is quite simplistic, it still shows that personal gain remains one of the key impediments to developing democracy in China. Indeed, a brief examination of the current problems in Chinese education as the factors that affect the state’s political landscape negatively will reveal that a range of educational institutions support the idea of political inequality by creating an elaborate system of social stratification.
For example, the Chinese education system presupposes that a very thick line should be drawn between the students from a poor background and those, whose parents take important state positions and, therefore, have numerous financial assets: “The continuing dominance of state-owned entities in Chinese post-reform society allows middle-class parents to utilize the social and political capital at their disposal to enhance the cultural capital of their children in order to preserve their hard-earned social status” (Tsang, 2013, p. 655). The above-mentioned problem has been highlighted in the movie, though not as obviously as it deserved, when one of the boys decided to lure his fellow students into voting for him by offering them a ride by monorail.
Democracy and the Chinese Economy
Although the Chinese society as depicted in the movie seems to be operating rather smoothly, the introduction of the basic democratic principles into its framework would allow for a major improvement in the state economy (Zhao, 2014). First and most obvious, the incorporation of key democratic principles into the framework of the state operations would contribute to enhancement of political relationships between China and the rest of the world. In spite of positioning itself as a self-sustained state in terms of its economy and the key financial transactions, China needs help from foreign partners in order to succeed in the global market and, therefore, become powerful enough to enter the realm of international trade.
The process of creating strong international relationships, in its turn, hinges on the economic and political principles that the partner states are guided by in their international business. In addition, according to the research carried out by Chen and Feng (2000)., the integration of the key tenets of democracy into the Chinese political strategy will help create openness, which the modern Chinese economy lacks considerably: “the gap of income per capita between poor and rich nations narrows at a rate of 2±2.5 percent if such factors as education level and the openness of the economy are controlled” (Chen & Feng, 2000, p. 2). As a result, clarity will be introduced into the key financial transactions carried out by the Chinese state government and state organizations. Therefore, a significant spur in the economic growth of the country can be expected due to the reduction in the number of instances of financial fraud.
Democratization, therefore, will promote economic growth within the state; more importantly, it may sour the process of gearing the state economic strategy towards sustainable use of resources. In order to promote sustainability within the public sector, one will have to make sure that the rates of economic growth are maintained at a consistently high level (Chen & Feng, 2000). Herein the significance of promoting democracy within the Chinese state system lies; as Chen and Feng’s research has shown, “the central government needs to provide a stable macroeconomic environment conducive to sustainable growth. High and volatile inflation has a negative effect on growth” (Chen & Feng, 2000, p. 2)
Although the movie filmed by Edkins and Chen provides a study in the educational setting of a Chinese elementary school, it manages to pinpoint the political and societal problems of China without naming them directly. A rather subtle commentary on the contemporary Chinese community, as well as basically any society that is devoid of democracy, the movie offers a well-balanced observation of the problem. It is the objectivity of the film and the simplicity of its narration that makes the message of significance of democracy so powerful and compelling. Addressing the problems that the Chinese society has never viewed as a major concern, the movie suggests a solution by enhancing democracy in education prior to testing it in the political environment.
Chen, B. & Feng, Y. (2000). Determinants of economic growth in China: Private enterprise, education, and openness. China Economic Review, 11(1), 1–15.
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Edkins, D. & Chen, W. (2007). Please, vote for me [Motion picture]. China: First Run Features. YouTube.
Tsang, E. Y. H. (2013). The quest for higher education by the Chinese middle class: retrenching social mobility? Higher Education, 66(6), 653–668.
Zhao, S. (2014). China and democracy: Reconsidering the prospects for a democratic China. New York, NY: Routledge.