China, Hong Kong and Taiwan—all societies rooted in Chinese culture—have developed very different ways of selecting their leaders and taking part in public affairs. The distinctions are highlighted as China undergoes its once-a-decade transition to a new slate of Communist Party leaders in Beijing this month. Despite China's dramatic transformation into an economic superpower, the authoritarian legacy of communist founder Mao Zedong continues to weigh heavily on the country's politics, leaving the vast majority of the population with little voice or knowledge of how their leaders are chosen. The process remains steeped in secrecy and backroom dealings. China's territory of Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy, freedom of the press and limited democracy, but its politics remains highly constrained by Beijing's wariness over threats to its authority. The former British colony now directly elects half of its 60 legislators, but the head of the regional government is still elected by a special body limited to just 1,200 members. Taiwan, in stark contrast to China, shrugged off authoritarian rule and underwent a transition over the past two decades to complete democracy, with sometimes-rowdy elections and a thriving civil society.