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"Red tourism" brings prosperity to villagers in Chairman Mao's birthplace
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07:47, November 16, 2007

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The late Chinese revolutionary founder Mao Zedong left his home village not only with a sense of pride but also a source of wealth.

In the central Chinese village of Shaoshan, where Mao was born, local villagers earn money by receiving tourists who are curious about the environment that the great leader came from or in wanting to experience the revolutionary times.

Modern China's first leader spent his childhood in Shaoshan Village during the 1890s, 104 kilometers from Changsha, the Hunan Province capital. His former residence was opened to tourists in 1950 and an increasing number have since made a pilgrimage to this mountain village.

Shaoshan today has become one of the country's major "red tourism attractions", a place where many Chinese revolutionists were born, lived or fought.

Almost all of the village's 450 households earn a decent income from tourists in running restaurants or inns, or in vending Chairman Mao badges or statuettes of him as souvenirs.

"But 30 years ago, opening private businesses was considered to run counter to socialism," said Mao Yushi, party secretary of Shaoshan Village. "It was strictly forbidden during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)."

Mao still remembers how difficult it was to start a business in the village even in the 1980s, some 10 years after the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976.

"Many people argued that running private business would bring shame to Chairman Mao and that all merchants were unscrupulous," said Mao Yushi. "An elderly villager felt so frustrated at stopping people from running businesses that he cried bitterly in front of a portrait of Chairman Mao."

Mao Yushi said he went to his fellow villagers houses one after another, talking to them into emancipating themselves from old shackles and embracing non-public sectors of the economy.

The situation began to change after people found they made more money by developing tourism in the renowned village than from just doing farm work and raising livestock.

To attract tourists, many locals have linked the name of their restaurants with the late chairman, such as "Mao Family's Restaurant" and "Red Sun Restaurant" ("red sun" refers to Chairman Mao in his time).

Today, private businesses related to tourism earn Shaoshan City, where the village is located, almost 80 percent of its revenue. It receives more than one million tourists annually. This year's revenue is estimated at 520 million yuan (69 million U.S. dollars).

The non-public sector of the economy has become an important part of the country's basic economy and modern market system rather than what people called -- "the residue of capitalist economy" -- in the 1970s.

"We need to ... unswervingly encourage, support and guide the development of the non-public sector (of the economy), ensure equal protection of property rights and create a new situation in which all economic sectors compete on an equal footing and reinforce each other," said President Hu Jintao in his report at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China that was held last month.

Mao Yushi said that the development of the private economy has left Shaoshan a changed village, one that has changed for the better.

"Nobody considers that developing private business would bring shame to Chairman Mao anymore. Instead, they think running prosperous businesses is a good demonstration of loving the country and socialism," he said.

To protect the local economy, the term "Shaoshan Village" was registered at the trademark office of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce last month.

"I believe the 'Shaoshan Village' brand will bring us more profits," said Mao.

Source: Xinhua



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