A Chinese military scholar is working on a fresh book of quotations from late supreme leader Mao Zedong, according to a report, indicating a growing nostalgia in the ranks of the ruling Chinese Communist Party for the country's Maoist past.
But the official news agency Xinhua disputed the "erroneous" weekend news report.
The cutting-edge Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily said at the weekend that the new version of what had been widely known as the "Little Red Book" would be edited by a scholar from the People's Liberation Army (PLA), and be published in time for the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth in December.
And the book's editor, Chen Yu , a researcher with the Academy of Military Sciences under the PLA, confirmed the story to Hong Kong media, calling it a work of "scientific research."
"It is merely a publication of scientific research, not a re-publishing of the previous Quotations from Chairman Mao," Chen told the South China Morning Post.
But the official news agency Xinhua rejected the report about the new book.
"We understand through concerned government departments that the story circulating on the Internet that the 'new edition of Chairman Mao's Quotations' may be published within this year" is purely an erroneous report," according to Xinhua.
But it made no comment on whether, or when, Chen's book would eventually be published.
The book became a must-have accessory for the politically correct revolutionary during the political turmoil of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) after it was first published by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) News in 1964.
Party historian Han Gang told the Southern Metropolis Daily that Chen's project comes at a time of huge social tension and complex conflicts, as well as clashing values.
"The new edition of the Quotes of Chairman Mao represents a symbolic return to the past, but it certainly isn't just simple nostalgia," Han was quoted as saying.
"It probably expresses more a sense of unhappiness with our present reality."
Analysts said the new selection of Mao quotes likely reflects a sense among many in the Party that it has strayed too far from its ideological roots.
"I think that this represents a longing for past glories on the part of the Chinese Communist Party," U.S.-based scholar and rights activist Liu Qing said in a recent interview. "This is a common death-bed phenomenon."
Corruption, abuse of power
Liu said Chinese leaders, who have repeatedly warned that the Party could lose power if rampant corruption and abuse of power are allowed to continue unchecked, have "admitted" that the regime is sick to the core.
"The new leadership [under President Xi Jinping] feels that they have strayed too far from Maoist ideology, and they have no other holy scriptures left to chant," he said.
"So they are bringing out the Quotations of Chairman Mao to recite once more."
And according to U.S.-based China scholar Li Hongkuan, the motivation for the re-publication of the "Little Red Book" was unlikely to be commercial.
"The only reason that the [book] was printed in such numbers in the past was that it was distributed by the government," Li said.
"It was never bought by ordinary people of their own accord, and I shouldn't think that this new edition will make any money."
It will be priced at 2,000 yuan (HK$2,521)—nearly three times the monthly income of a typical Chinese rural resident—and contains a selection of Mao quotations that a sample of 20 people from students to business people to academics found "most inspiring," Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper reported.
Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie and Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.