Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

BUSINESS DAILY

Greek shares plunge as trading resumes in Athens

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Gulf countries need proof and guarantees'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The deadly French-English border'

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Experimental Ebola vaccine could stop virus in West Africa

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#CecilTheLion : Hunter Becomes The Hunted

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Erdogan’s gamble: Turkey launches offensives on PKK and Islamic State Group (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Europe’s shame: Calais migrant crisis deepens (part 1)

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

The River Seine, the lifeblood of the French capital

Read more

FOCUS

Remote learning brings hope to Brazil’s rural poor

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

2015-07-31 Brazil

Remote learning brings hope to Brazil’s rural poor

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's approval ratings have slumped as she battles corruption allegations and the worst economic downturn in 25 years, and now her popular...

Read more

2015-07-30 Bangladesh

Bangladesh: Secular bloggers live in fear after spate of killings

In Bangladesh, violence by radical Islamists is on the rise. In 2013, a group of fundamentalists published a list of 84 intellectuals and free thinkers to be "reduced to...

Read more

2015-07-29 Colombia

Colombian community takes on drug gangs

Buenaventura is Colombia's main port on the Pacific coast and local authorities and investors are eager to transform it into a touristic destination, but the town has fallen prey...

Read more

2015-07-28 Russia

Russia's private military firms operate in legal grey area

Kiev and the West have accused Russian troops of participating in the Ukraine conflict on a massive scale. The Kremlin denies sending professional troops into the country and...

Read more

2015-07-27 Niger

Cultural centre in ruins months after Charlie Hebdo riots

In mid-January, violence erupted in Niger's southern city of Zinder, sparked by the post-attack edition of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The front cover showed a weeping...

Read more