'Red' Theme Park Axed

Authorities touted it as a big tourist spot but the plan was seen by many as being out of touch with current reality.

People waving flags of the Communist Party of China in celebrations to mark the 90th anniversary of the party's founding in Chongqing, June 29, 2011.

The decision by China's southwestern Chongqing city to shelve plans to build an elaborate theme park celebrating revolutionary history has highlighted widespread popular anger over prestige projects as ordinary Chinese find it increasingly hard to make ends meet.

The city last month shelved plans for the 2.5 billion yuan (U.S.$386.7 million) theme park celebrating China' revolutionary history, official media reported.

The "Red Classics Theme Park" was touted as a major tourist attraction for Chongqing, which recently also poured money into concerts of Mao era "red songs" to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of China's ruling Communist Party.

The 128-hectare (316-acre) park, which was to have included a theater for revolutionary performances and a theme park, including replicas of the home villages of late supreme leaders Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, drew the ire of residents and social commentators, however.

Many slammed the plan as being out of touch with current reality, however, at a time of rising food prices and lack of affordable housing for millions of ordinary people.

"I really don't think a lot of people would go," said a resident of Chongqing surnamed Peng, interviewed when the plan was first revealed.

"Ordinary people probably won't go to somewhere like this, especially the younger generation."

"They're like, flags, Party, whatever."

Peng said the current wave of revolutionary culture being promoted by municipal Party leader Bo Xilai was turning the city into a laughing stock throughout the rest of the country.

"I met someone who wasn't from here the other day, and he said that, elsewhere in China, they are telling jokes about Chongqing," Peng said.

"The jokes make Chongqing people out to be really dumb."

Poor taste

Online author Sima Tai, a Chongqing native, said a lavish theme-park was in poor taste when so many people in the city were struggling.

"They have turned off the water supply in lot of places now, because of the drought," Sima said. "They shouldn't be spending money on a red theme-park, where they reproduce the birthplaces of some of the top Chinese leaders of the past."

"A lot of ordinary people can't even afford housing now: why are you building houses for dead people?"

A second online author, surnamed Liu, said the people of Chongqing and surrounding Sichuan mostly had a low opinion of the Communist Party.

"I think most people in Chongqing hate the Communist Party," Liu said.
"Historically, Chongqing was the Kuomintang capital, and a lot of people died when it was taken."

He said the region had suffered harshly during the famine of the Great Leap Forward launched by Mao in the 1958-1960 period in a bid to rapidly modernize China by collectivizing the country's vast population. The campaign ended in economic disaster and millions of Chinese starved to death.

"More than 10 million people died in Sichuan during the Greap Leap Forward, and things were extremely chaotic with a lot of guerilla fighting during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976)," Liu added.

"This red song concert thing is a...failure to recognize that [local] people hate the Communist Party down to their very marrow."

China is in the grip of a new wave of "revolutionary culture" as the ruling Communist Party marks the 90th anniversary of its founding, although authorities still forbid public debate on Mao Zedong's brutal Cultural Revolution.

Chongqing officials, led by Party secretary and rising political star Bo Xilai, organized a series of "red song" concerts to strengthen social cohesion in recent months.

The official China Daily newspaper quoted online comments slamming the project's extravagance, and cited officials as saying the project was shelved because it was "not feasible."

Reported by Shi Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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Aug 16, 2011 03:08 AM

Since China's authoritarian Communist Party and the police state it controls have caused so much needless suffering and death, it would be strange if it weren't an object of hatred and loathing in China.