Primary School Colors

Following a post from John at Sinosplice, I checked out the documentary “Please Vote for Me,” part of the BBC’s “Why Democracy” film series. The film covers a democratic classroom election at a top primary school in Wuhan, China. The candidates are three children in the 3rd grade: chubby and charming but devious Cheng Cheng, the Bill Clinton of the film; the incumbent Luo Lei, who takes a “bread and circuses” approach to the election; and Xu Xiaofei, who is not only the only girl but also seemingly the most decent of the three (just think of her as the Paul Tsongas or Mike Huckabee of the race).

Though clocking in at a short 47 minutes, “Please Vote for Me” is a brilliant and potentially disturbing film, insomuch as the children — with some help from their parents — take pages from the playbook of Lee Atwater and James Carville to defeat their opponents. This BBC News article offers a good summary of what transpires, but really the film should be watched on its own to appreciate what happens.

Given that the political history of Chinese people differs wildly from the US, the film provides some ammunition for those who believe the flaws in American democracy aren’t systemic so much as the natural effects of human nature in the political system. Beyond that, it’s a highly entertaining short documentary and look at the lives of the new Chinese middle class.