The top party official in Hunan has vowed to spare no effort in preparing for an elaborate and high-profile commemoration of the 120th anniverary of Mao Zedong's birth in his hometown of Shaoshan this year.
The plans have reinforced concerns among the country's liberals that the party is taking a more conservative political line.
Provincial party secretary Xu Shousheng visited numerous venues honouring Mao on Wednesday and laid a wreath before a statue of him at Mao Zedong Square in Shaoshan, according to the Hunan Daily.
"Commemorating the 120th anniversary of Mao's birthday [December 26] carries strong significance in politics, policies and [communist] theories, as well as under present circumstances," the report quoted Xu as saying. "The party's Central Committee greatly values the activities and stipulates clear requests in respect of them."
Mainland reports suggested that Xiangtan , the city overseeing Shaoshan, planned to spend more than 6 billion yuan (HK$7.5 billion) on organising ceremonial shows, the renovation of Mao's memorial hall, and construction of related projects.
Beijing-based independent political analyst Chen Zimin said that, judging from Xu's remarks, the party's Central Committee was going to hold a high-level and far-reaching ceremony to mark Mao's birthday, which he said would signify a dramatic turn to the left in terms of politics and ideology.
"If these were ceremonial activities to be held only in the province, they wouldn't need to publicise them so widely," Chen said. "This actually implies that members of the party's top-ranking Politburo Standing Committee will attend the commemorations in Hunan.
"I guess there is a good chance that all seven committee members will show up in Mao's home town on December 26. One, two or three members of the party's top decision-making body will be there, at the very least."
Professor Yuan Weishi , a historian at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, said there was little doubt the central government would celebrate the anniversary of Mao's birth in a high-profile manner, and Yuan said he believed that President Xi Jinping might even give a keynote speech.
However, Yuan said it was too early to jump to the conclusion that the party had already adopted an all-out left turn in its political and ideological direction.
"The whole country will be in a grave predicament if the party shifts its political standpoint from the reform and opening-up policy to ultra-conservative rulings," he said.