China Stirs Up Patriotism by Sending Tourists to Mao’s Old Haunts

China Stirs Up Patriotism by Sending Tourists to Mao’s Old Haunts

As China prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic on Tuesday, the party has been exploiting its history to reinforce ideology — especially to those in positions of influence. Behind the holiday spirit is President Xi Jinping’s campaign to bring the party, and the country, in line — a campaign that also includes feared anti-corruption measures and endless political inspections.

The party is encouraging this patriotic nostalgia to bolster support in an economic slowdown and to cement backing for Xi as he combats months of civil unrest in Hong Kong and external challenges from a more assertive U.S. under President Donald Trump.

“Efforts under the Xi administration to revive and amplify communist orthodoxy are directly tied to the CCP’s concern over its political legitimacy and regime stability,” said Jude Blanchette, author of “China’s New Red Guards: The Return of Radicalism and the Rebirth of Mao Zedong.” “Xi fears that if the Chinese people aren’t consistently reminded of the great and glorious achievements of the CCP, they will treat it with indifference or worse, hostility.”

As Xi put it in a 2016 speech: “Only by experiencing the hardships of revolutionary era can people truly receive education.” The Chinese leader has argued that red tourism could provide the country with a “spiritual red baptism.”

To push this vision, the government earmarked 2.64 billion yuan ($370 million) to develop red tourism between 2016 and 2020, turning it into big business. Trips to sites associated with the country’s communist revolution accounted for 10% of domestic tourism spending in the first half of 2018, according to government statistics. State media estimate red tourism sites get 800 million visits a year.

Xi’s endorsement has encouraged Chinese business leaders to join the trend and send employees on red tours to show loyalty to the party.

Chiefs of 45 Chinese technology companies including Tencent Holdings Ltd.-backed Zhihu and Kuaishou went on a trip to Fujian to study CCP history and ideology in June. Wang Jianlin, the billionaire founder of Dalian Wanda Group, is planning a 1.7 billion dollar theme park in Yanan to mark the 100th anniversary of the party’s founding in 2021.

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