China Launches Red Culture Drive

As TV schedules are swept clean of spy and crime dramas to make way for shows celebrating the history of the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army, the Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore examines China’s “Red Culture” boom:

The government, which is strongly supporting the drive, believes a healthy dose of “Red Culture” could help unify Chinese society, which is fraying under the stress of growing inequality.

In Yan’an, Chairman Mao’s former wartime headquarters and the symbolic “birthplace” of the revolution, hundreds of daily visitors re-enact the battles between Communist forces and their enemies. According to the Chinese National Tourism Administration, the number of visitors at the country’s top ten “Red Tourism” sites are growing by more than 50 per cent a year.

In June, a large Red Tourism Culture Festival will be held in Hunan, the province where Chairman Mao was born.

 But even outside of established sites, Red tourism is thriving. On the southern island of Hainan, which is better known for its luxury hotels and beaches, a Red tour includes a visit to Pan Xianying, a 95-year-old mother of seven who is one of three surviving members of an all-female Red Army unit ….

The local authorities in her village, Qionghai, decided to put her on show earlier this year in order to profit from the Red tourism boom.

As the article notes, Chongqing has been a prominent centre of the “Red Culture” movement, with Party Secretary Bo Xilai’s “Strike Black” anti-crime drive accompanied by a stirring “Sing Red” campaign promoting traditional revolutionary songs. In the face of a media backlash, Bo recently tried to reassure journalists from Hong Kong and Macao about the nature of “singing red”. From the Global Times:

At the meeting, Bo tried to scotch speculation of the campaign being a movement to revive the politics and spirit of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). On the contrary, Bo said, it was aimed at energizing communities and motivating people in good faith.

Bo’s clarification, it is hoped, would reverse the worsening public relations of the Chongqing government that launched the “red culture campaign” a year ago. Since then, the campaign has drawn widespread criticism, giving rise to a suspicion that Chongqing was indoctrinating locals with outdated “red songs” and “revolutionary dogma.”

… Many people are nostalgic about the old “red days” of less crime and more honesty when equality, simplicity and a different set of morals were the order of the day.

However, these people dread the return of that egalitarianism which calls for sacrificing the gains of economic liberalization. Thus, liberal media is apprehensive about the word “red,” because this evocative word is associated with retrograde solutions to many social problems of today.