Must-see red destinations: Chinese cadres hit pilgrimage trail in lead-up to Communist Party congress

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 12:17pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 10:56pm

Jiangsu Communist Party boss Li Qiang wasted no time when he was elevated to the top provincial job.

Just weeks after being named to take over the position, Li was on the red pilgrimage trail to Huaian to visit the Zhou Enlai Memorial Hall, the birthplace of the people’s republic’s first premier.

“This is my first time here,” Li said of his trip on Thursday.

“I’ve learnt a lot and been moved by the precious intangible asset left by Premier Zhou. He spared no effort in performing his duty to the party and the people till the end of his days.”

Li is just the latest in a long line of recently promoted senior officials popping up at revolutionary sights across the country in an apparent attempt to show their loyalty to the ruling party.

It’s a show of fealty that will become increasingly important in the lead-up to next year’s party congress.

China has no shortage of stops on the national red tourist trail.

From Xibaipo in Hebei, to Yanan in the northwest, Jinggangshan in the southeast, and Zunyi in the southwest, the mainland is littered with revolutionary bases that mark key moments in the pursuit of power by the party before the founding of people’s republic in 1949.

President Xi Jinping has shown the way, setting foot in 28 of the country’s 31 provinces, municipalities and regions since assuming the leader’s mantle in late 2012. Only Shanxi, Guangxi and Tibet have escaped his fact-finding missions. Along the way he has visited various revolutionary centres, turning those places into must-go destinations for regional leaders.

One of those regional leaders was Che Jun.

Che had been deputy party secretary and acting governor of Zhejiang less than a month when he launched his first provincial fact-finding trip with a visit to the Nanhu Revolutionary Memorial Hall in Jiaxing on July 7.

Jiaxing is regarded as one of the birthplaces of the party and was the site of the party’s founding congress in 1921. It was also one of Xi’s first destinations after taking top office.

In neighbouring Jiangxi, governor Liu Qi opted to make his pilgrimage in July to Jian in the Jinggangshan Mountains, “the cradle of the Chinese revolution”.

The “Jinggangshan spirit” was a centrepiece of late leader Mao Zedong’s thought which insisted on the absolute leadership of the party and an unswerving commitment to revolution.

Here, nearly 90 years after Mao and his forces sought refuge in the mountains, Liu pledged to make an all-out effort to advance the Jinggangshan spirit.

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But there are a multitude of other red destinations to choose from. In Hunan, Shaoshan, Mao Zedong’s hometown, is almost a compulsory stop for senior officials either taking new roles in the province or heading on to other parts of the country.

And in Hebei, every provincial party boss has paid a visit to Xibaipo, since Hu Jintao went there in December 2002 after he became the party’s general secretary.

Xibaipo was the place from which Mao rolled out his winning strategy against the Kuomintang. It was also the venue for the party’s seventh party congress in 1948, just before party leaders entered Beijing and seized control of the country.

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During his trip 14 years ago, Hu quoted Mao to encourage cadres to remain humble and cautious and continue their “arduous struggle”, the same message that Xi is promoting.

The flurry of activity is reflects the heavy scrutiny that senior officials are under as the party prepares for a major power reshuffle at the party’s 19th national congress due to be held in the autumn next year.

Xi, a descendant of party veteran and former vice-premier Xi Zhongxun, has repeatedly highlighted the importance of the party’s revolutionary tradition so it is no surprise that other senior cadres are keen to be heard echoing that message.

Their efforts to toe the party line could ensure them a smoother political future, or at least keep them out of harm’s way in the cutthroat world of politics.

Additional reporting by Wendy Wu