400 million people watched the finale of China’s “Mengniu Sour Yoghurt Super Voice Girl” on August 27th – nearly a third of the population. Around 8 million text message votes were cast.

Some of China’s more daring papers have seized on the chance to put “Super Girl” in a political context. An article widely carried on state media websites said the contest had caused Chinese intellectuals to “fantasize about arrangements for democratic elections and notice the awakening of democratic consciousness among the younger generation.”

But the China Daily loyally expressed scepticism, asking, “How come an imitation of a democratic system ends up selecting the singer who has the least ability to carry a tune?”

From “Democracy Idol” The Economist, Sept. 10, 2005, p.42.