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Text by Tan Xingyu
Over the nearly three decades from its establishment in 1921 through the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Communist Party of China (CPC) marched down a “red” road of revolution. It was a road of hardship, passion, romance and glory. Today, increasing numbers of Chinese with an interest in history are enthusiastically revisiting former revolutionary bases and landmark sites. This is “red tourism.”
In December 2004, the Chinese government formulated the General Plan for the Development of Red Tourism (2004-2010). The plan defines the 12 major red tourist areas which best represent the progressive phases of revolution in China. Following are what are commonly considered to be the most important of those officially designated sites.
Nestled in southwestern Jiangxi Province, Jinggang Mountain boasts a well-preserved ecosystem featuring precipitous cliffs and dense bamboo forests. Historically, few humans settled in the area due to limited means of access. On October 7, 1927, Mao Zedong led his troops to Maoping, Ninggang County, where he established the Red Army and the Jinggang Mountain Revolutionary Base. The conditions were rugged and the going tough. Later, during his meeting with American journalist Edgar Snow, Mao recalled the suffering time on Jinggang Mountain: “The troops had no winter uniforms, and food was extremely scarce. For months we lived practically on squash. The soldiers shouted a slogan of their own: ‘Down with capitalism, and eat squash!’ — for to them capitalism meant landlords and the landlords’ squash.”
However, attacks from Kuomintang troops were a threat fiercer than low temperatures and starvation. To shatter the seeds of communism in China, from November 1930 to September 1931, the Kuomintang government launched three “annihilation campaigns.” Despite the harsh environment, Mao and his comrades soldiered on, carrying out land reforms and beating back the attacks of Kuomintang troops. In the course of its painstaking struggle, the CPC realized that peasants, making up the overwhelming majority of China’s population, would play a vital role in the Chinese revolution. In his essay A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire, Mao set forth a strategy by which the CPC would shift the focus of its effort from the cities to the countryside and establish revolutionary bases in the countryside by mobilizing and relying on peasants. In this way would be launched a long-term revolutionary war with peasants as the backbone, developing and expanding revolutionary forces, and finally capturing the cities and achieving a nationwide victory.
Today Jinggang Mountain is popular with fans of red tourism. Here they can experience the hard life that Red Army soldiers endured: Wearing coarse clothes, eating brown rice and pumpkin soup, and trekking along mountainous paths while learning of their stories. Today, increasing numbers of tourists are flooding into the mountain. In 2003, the mountain received 3.7 million tourists, including 60,000 foreigners, and realized tourism revenues of 2.6 billion yuan. The great potential of its tourism market has attracted many investors. For instance, the US-based hotel group, Days Inn, plans to open a five-star hotel here.