Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 29 August 2014

Read more

ENCORE!

Alain Choquette: A Hilarious Magician in Paris

Read more

FOCUS

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Emmanuel Macron: A new economy minister with a pro-business agenda

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

#TECH 24

Changing the world, one video game at a time

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Socialist Party summer conference kicks off in explosive atmosphere

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2013-12-27

120th anniversary sees tourists flood birthplace of father of modern China

Every day, they arrive by the thousand from all corners of China: tourists, workers from state enterprises, even look-alikes. They flock straight to the statue of former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong.

The mood is one not so much one of respect, but of adoration.

For 50 euros you can present the founding father of the People’s Republic of China with a floral tribute; for 120, two soldiers will lay it in place.

But in Shaoshan, Mao’s birthplace, money doesn’t matter.

“You shouldn’t even ask how much the flowers cost, you can’t measure it in money,” said Mr. Liu, who dipped into his savings and travelled 1,500 kilometres to pay homage to the late leader. “I think they’re priceless.”

For people like Mr. Liu, the trip to Shaoshan is an overwhelming experience. “I’m feeling an uncontrollable wave of emotion here,” he said. “I also took the opportunity to make a wish. I wished for our motherland to become prosperous.”

Prosperity has certainly come to Shaoshan, located in the south-central Hunan province. The town has a massive “red tourism” industry, with a museum, a library, a cultural centre and soon a theatre, all dedicated to Mao.

For the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birthday, the city has spent over 200 million euros in renovations and infrastructure.

Highlighting Mao’s frugal side, downplaying the deaths

Tian Haiming, a local businessman, is proud of the result.

Like many locals, he deals in objects commemorating the leader. Tourists are his main market, but not the only one. For a fee, Mr. Tien will even carry out a ceremony in honour of Mao.

The onetime farmer is indeed now a canny businessman. But, he says, he remains a Maoist above all.

“As a native of Shaoshan, my duty is to convey what this culture is about,” he said. “There’s no connection at all with the commercial side.”

The “Mao merchants” are now facing a new challenge: the anti-extravagance campaign led by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has demanded a sober anniversary.

In the Shaoshan memorial hall, it’s Mao’s frugal side that is being highlighted. It’s a theme that still resonates with a population which is still very critical of inequality.

Meanwhile, amid all the celebratory and commemorative events, the millions of death ascribed to Chairman Mao are rarely mentioned. Chinese schools still teach the official line: Mao’s actions were 30 percent wrong, but 70 percent right.

 

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-08-29 refugees

France welcomes Iraqi Christian refugees

When jihadists from the Islamic State organisation swept into northern Iraq, the French government pledged to facilitate asylum for Iraqi Christians who had fled their homes in...

Read more

2014-08-28 corruption

Mothers and children leaving Honduras at all costs

More than 52,000 migrant children from Central America and Mexico are still stranded in the United States, waiting for their legal situation to be resolved before being...

Read more

2014-08-27 refugees

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

Italy's financial and fashion capital Milan has become an established transit point for refugees, especially for those escaping the brutal civil war in Syria, who make their way...

Read more

2014-08-26 unrest

Far-right ‘Russian Jihad’ fighters cross into Ukraine

Since the beginning of the conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, Moscow has repeatedly denied sending troops or weapons to help the...

Read more

2014-08-25 racism

USA: Beyond Ferguson

For the past two weeks, France 24 correspondents Philip Crowther and Stanislas de Saint Hippolyte have been reporting on the outburst of anger in Ferguson, Missouri after an...

Read more