China Focus: Red tourism flourishes in old revolutionary bases

15:46, May 14, 2011      

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Revolution-era bases, scattered mostly among mountainous areas across China, accommodated and nurtured the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its armies during the 28 years of its struggle to take power.

More than six decades have passed since the CPC rose victorious and founded the People's Republic of China in October 1949.

With an increasing number of Chinese taking a keener interest in the CPC's revolutionary history, these former bases have become hot tourist attractions.

Tourists from across the country flock to northwest China's city of Yan'an, which hosted the CPC headquarters and the center of the Communist revolution from 1935 to 1948.

Zhang Yuliang, 22, and his friends traveled all the way from Yichun in east China's Jiangxi Province.

In Yan'an, they watched the "Battle Defending Yan'an," a simulation of a battle in which Kuomintang forces assaulted Yan'an in an attempt to capture the CPC leadership in 1947 but were defeated by the Communist forces.

Zhang and his friends even donned military uniforms and joined the show as cast members.

"Gunpowder smoke filled the air, the sound of gunshots was deafening. It's as if we were on a movie set. I really had a good time," he said.

With over 1,000 viewers a day, the show brings millions of yuan in yearly revenues to its investor Chu Xianyi, an entrepreneur from east China's Zhejiang Province.

Red tourism has blossomed in Yan'an, a city boasting over 350 sites related to the revolution. Among these sites is a former residence of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, which is a cave dwelling in a place called Zaoyuan, or Jujube Orchard literally.

According to Bai Huaijun, vice director of the Yan'an tourism bureau, the city received 14.5 million tourists in 2010 and brought in 7.65 billion yuan (about 1.17 billion U.S. dollars), up 40 percent from the previous year.

As early as in the 1930s, the American journalist Edgar Snow came to Yan'an and wrote a book entitled "Red Star over China", based on what he saw and heard while reporting the Chinese revolution from the northwest China revolutionary base area with Yan'an as the heart.

This city of Yan'an is now blessed with modern industries characterized by petroleum, coal, energy and chemical sectors after the CPC has ruled the country for over six decades. The city notched up more than 10 billion yuan in local financial revenue last year, outpacing Xi'an, the provincial capital of Shaanxi, in terms of per capita standard.

Bai Huaijun, the Yan'an tourism bureau official, attributed the economic boom of Yan'an to the transfer in human thought.

"We have been boosting local industries in line with the mode of socialist market economy in this sacred revolutionary base of Yan'an and have achieved economic prosperity by adopting the policy of opening up and attracting private investments, " said Bai.

Yan'an's identity as the Red Capital charms an increasing number of people interested in China's revolutionary history. The city has made developing the tourism industry a priority for years and a goal has been set to attract 20 million visits and chalk up 11 billion yuan in comprehensive earnings from tourism by 2015, Bai said.

During this year's Labor Day holiday, tourist traffic jammed the roads leading into Xibaipo, a village in north China's Hebei Province where the CPC leadership stayed in the final days leading up to its victory.

Leaders of the CPC stayed in Xibaipo for about ten months starting in May 1948 and prepared for the CPC's new role as the ruling party.

In this short time the CPC leadership made far-reaching decisions, including launching the land reform act, issuing the Renminbi as the currency, commanding three decisive battles against the Kuomintang and shifting priorities from rural to urban affairs.

Kang Yanxin, the deputy chief of the office with the Xibaipo Museum, said tourism rates have grown at an average of 65 percent annually. About four million tourists are expected this year, up from 640,000 in 2006.

The Hebei provincial government plans to invest 41.5 billion yuan to make Xibaipo, a three-hour-and-a-half drive from Beijing, into a hub of the so-called red economy.

Red tourism has also taken off in Zunyi, the place where Mao Zedong established his authority within the military during a leadership conference, paving the way for the revolution's success.

The administration of the Zunyi Meeting Museum was so confident it could attract a steady flow of visitors that it borrowed 219 million yuan from a commercial bank in June 2007, using potential ticket revenues as collateral.

With the loan, the museum purchased a commercial street near the conference site and renamed it Street of the Red Army, after the name of the Communist forces between 1928 and 1937.

"This combines patriotic education and red tourism, a positive experiment positive in using culture to boost economic development," said Chen Song, the curator of the Zunyi Meeting Museum.

Once a destitute township, Zunyi has grown into a city and become the second largest of the kind in southwest China's Guizhou Province, holding key industries such as food processing, energy, and chemical engineering.

Source: Xinhua
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