New York Times reporter Edward Wong took an inordinately cheery look at a Maoist tourist attraction in the Chinese city of Yan’an in Friday’s “Revolution Isn’t a Party, But It Draws The Tourists.” The online headline was clearer: “China’s Red Tourism Taps Communist Pride for Profit.”
Wong described a botched performance of a re-enactment of “a crucial moment in the Chinese civil war, when the Kuomintang tried to overrun the Communists in 1947 in their mountain redoubt here. The show, complete with live explosions and a fighter jet that swoops down on a wire, takes place every morning on the outskirts of Yan’an, a dingy city of two million in the northern province of Shaanxi.
Capitalism is thriving in China, but red is far from dead, at least in Yan’an. “The Defense of Yan’an” is a recent addition to tourist attractions that try to evoke the glory days of the Communist Party, after its leaders entered Yan’an in 1936 following the Long March. Local officials and businesspeople are profiting handsomely from a boom in “red tourism,” in which Chinese, many of them young professionals, journey to famous revolutionary sites to rekindle their long-lost sense of class struggle and proletarian principles.
Mr. Ma and his tour group, all sporting red Mao pins on their lapels, were among thousands of tourists, including real soldiers from the city of Xi’an, wandering through the revolutionary sites that day. The Yan’an tourism bureau says on its Web site that visitors to the city surpassed 10 million last year, up 37 percent from the previous year.
The millions wiped out in Mao's Cultural Revolution and an ideologically induced famine were relegated to the 18th paragraph.
In the Chairman Mao Exhibition Hall, no mention is made of the horrors of the great famine of the 1950s or the Cultural Revolution, nor does there even appear the standard party-endorsed assessment that Mao was 70 percent right and 30 percent wrong. Displays or photographs showing Mao’s compatriots -- for example, Liu Zhidan, the young revolutionary who set up a base in Yan’an before Mao arrived -- give no indication that those people were later purged by Mao.
The Times recently embarrassed itself with a playful November 7, 2010 article about a Communist gathering at the Brecht Forum in Manhattan.