China's 'Red Tourism' Boosted By Renewed Patriotism And Allegiance To Communist Party

Children perform at a revolutionary song singing event to celebrate the upcoming 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China, in Shanghai
Children perform at a revolutionary song singing event to celebrate the upcoming 90th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC), in Shanghai June 30, 2011. China will celebrate the anniversary on July 1, 2011. Reuters

There has been speculation in recent years that China’s Communist roots were being overshadowed by capitalistic goals. However, a new wave of patriotism is spreading across China, geared toward reminding the Chinese people of the country’s beginnings.

Over the past 30 years, China has transitioned from a closed, communist and agrarian society to an increasingly urban one that encouraged market participation and international trade. Growing individual wealth, the acquisition of foreign goods and investing overseas, are all well-documented trends of China’s growing middle class. These changes have prompted China’s central government to believe that people may have lost sight of what’s important — allegiance to and support for the Communist Party and patriotism to the homeland. Though China won’t soon give up its economic goals or hunger for prosperity, red tourism is a tool used more to reaffirm faith in and devotion to the party by reminding citizens of Maoist era struggles than literally bringing China closer to the Marxist ideology that inspired Mao Zedong. 

“We need to seize these two concepts — red bases and patriotic education on the one hand and developing red tourism on the other,” President Xi Jinping said in March.

“Red tourism” — a subset of domestic tourism used to promote and educate people of historical sites and culturally significant events that contribute to the country’s Communist beginnings -- have been making a comeback.

Battle re-enactments are increasing: In the northern province of Shaanxi, a group of uniformed Communist soldiers hold faux skirmishes with Nationalist tanks to protect local villages. Soon after, the soldiers successfully overtake the Nationalist forces after firing (blanks) at the enemy, proudly hoisting the ref flag of the Chinese Communist Party as villagers come out and dance in celebration.

This is a re-enactment of a famous battle, known as the “Defense of Yan’an,” where the Nationalist forces led by General Chiang Kai-shek battled China’s Communist forces. The fight is often regarded as a crucial moment that led to the birth of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Similar to America’s Civil War re-enactments, hundreds of actors are involved in putting up the elaborate production. According to a report by Businessweek, this particular show is repeated every day and is attended by an increasing number of citizens.

“By coming here we can understand how the party sacrificed, created the new China, and built such a beautiful country for us,” 13-year-old Deng Yi, who was brought there with his mother and father from coastal city of Wenzhou, said.

The Chinese have become a big market for tourism overseas, earning the distinction of being the top spenders in several tourist areas, but domestic red tourism is also growing. According to the report, last year 786 million tourists visited China’s various revolutionary sites, an increase of 17.3 percent compared with the year prior, earning the National Tourism Administration 198.6 billion yuan ($32 billion), in revenue.

To help the influx of Communist-minded tourists, China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs spent 2.8 billion yuan on constructing memorials that commemorate heroes and figures of the revolution. Additionally, the government bureau in charge of cultural relics allocated 487 million yuan to refurbishing “red” sites. 

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