Despatch from Loushanguan | International

The rise of red tourism in China

A sculpture of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong is placed in front of a souvenir plate featuring a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a shop next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee

A sculpture of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong is placed in front of a souvenir plate featuring a portrait of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a shop next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Jason Lee  

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Showcasing the revolutionary past is helping govt. promote the legitimacy of the Communist Party

Red Tourism, which attracts tourists in hordes to sites that showcase China’s revolutionary past, is beginning to breed prosperity in the countryside.

State planners have methodically developed a robust ecosystem, energised by carefully choreographed stories of how the founding father of Red China, Mao Zedong, and his comrades battled for the communist revolution in 1949.

The tales woven around prominent locations — markers on the path that led to the emergence of Red China — are now being leveraged for tourism. In turn, the glorification of the Chinese revolution is having a major downstream impact. Not only is red tourism helping the authorities in eliminating rural poverty, but also promoting the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China (CPC). China’s millennial and Generation-Z, especially, are being expertly blooded into the patriotic mainstream as framed by the CPC.

The Long March, the epic escape of the rank and file, as well as the leadership core of the CPC, in the face of almost certain annihilation by forces led by Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT), is today at the heart of China’s flourishing red tourism industry.

Logging almost 9,000 km, in the face of natural and human adversity, Mao’s forces, adopting guerilla tactics, and pursuing great acts of deception, managed to escape a massive siege laid by a far more powerful enemy.

For 370 days beginning in October 1934, the Red Army, starting from eastern China’s heavily mountainous Jiangxi province, and then wading through rivers, marshes and snow-capped mountains, broke out of the KMT’s deadly encirclement. Finally, the Long March ended in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, at Yanan, which subsequently became the crucible of the revolution, accomplished in 1949.

“Adventure, exploration, discovery, human courage and cowardice, ecstasy and triumph, suffering, sacrifice and loyalty, and then through it all, like a flame, an undimmed ardour and undying hope and amazing revolutionary optimism of those thousands of youths who would not admit defeat by man or nature or God or death — all this and more seemed embodied in the history of an odyssey unequalled in modern times,” wrote Edgar Snow, the American writer who chronicled a detailed account of the Long March in his famous classic Red Star Over China.

In the story of the Long March, the city of Zunyi, in southwest China’s Guizhou province, is a pivotal landmark. Following a nearly catastrophic military setback on the banks of the Xiang river, it was during a review conference in Zunyi, that Mao stamped his leadership on the party.

Currently, crowds of tourists, donning the Red Army’s grey uniforms, throng the elegantly pillared two storey building, where the three day Zunyi conference was held from January 15, 1935.

Besides this star attraction, people surge to a nearby museum, exhibiting turning points along the Long March. Built four years ago, it is an icon representing the renewed focus on the revolutionary past on the watch of China’s current President, Xi Jinping.

‘Truly inspiring’

Within an hour’s drive from Zunyi is the Loushan pass — another major site along the Long March route. The successful capture of the Loushan pass was critical in preventing the Red Army’s entrapment in Zunyi city.

“The story of the Loushan pass battle is truly inspiring. It helps us to recognise our red genes and makes us ready to accept any challenge,” says Xie Shixue, a post-graduate student of psychology. “We learn about the Long March and even our daily news through a dedicated mobile phone App,” she says.

It is at the village of Loushanguan, on the edge of the famous battleground, that the fusion of red tourism and China’s assault on rural poverty gets magnified.

“My business has doubled since the red tourism began,” says Ma Yi, a former migrant worker, who has returned home to launch a state-backed start-up, turning around his family’s traditional bamboo and rattan furniture business. A zero per cent loan from the local rural credit cooperative bank, supplementing his personal savings, had fed into Mr. Ma’s grassroots business.

Mr. Ma Yi’s enterprise is also part of Alibaba, China’s giant e-commerce network. “I was recently in Shanghai for the import expo looking for overseas customers, as we have decided that our humble business must now go global.”

(Atul Aneja is The Hindu’s Beijing correspondent)

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 3:47:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/the-rise-of-red-tourism-in-china/article30124887.ece

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