Red China And Red Tourism: Why Is It On The Rise?

Red Tourism is a subset of tourism that focuses on visiting of national sacred places, such as the birthplaces and residences of past communist leaders, ‘glorious’ battlefields, and revolutionary martyrs’ cemeteries and memorials, in order to learn the revolutionary history and to boost the national prestige of socialist countries.

In the People’s Republic of China, Red tourism features visits to sites with historical significance to Chinese Communism. It showcases the revolutionary past of China and therefore, has named these historical sites red scenic spots. The historical sites and locations record China’s revolution led by the Communist Party of China from 1921 to 1949. The Historical Glorification of the Chinese revolution is aimed at:

  • rekindling the Communist Party of China’s long-lost sense of class struggle and proletarian principles and improve the education of the party’s revolutionary traditions,
  • promote patriotism especially among youth,
  • stimulate economic development in revolutionary areas
  • eliminate rural poverty, along with promoting the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

How has it been since the Program of Red tourism actually began?

After the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was formed in 1949, people began to make pilgrimages to sacred places in order to retrace the Long March, a 12,500-kilometre-long trek. However, the central government officially got on the red tourism bandwagon in 2004 when it came up with a five-year plan and was identified not just as an initiative of cultural and economic importance, but a national political project as well. As ‘Red tourism’ focuses on the historical heritage of the Chinese Communist Party for tourism development, these red scenic spots are especially popular around Party’s Day (1st July, the anniversary of the beginning of Communist Party of China).

Red Tourism gained momentum in 2005 when the Government began actively supporting red tourism to promote the “national ethos” and socioeconomic development in those areas, which are typically rural and poorer than East China.  In July 2010, officials representing 13 Chinese cities signed a – “China Red Tourism Cities Strategic Cooperation Yan’an Declaration” to develop red tourism. As ‘Red tourism’ focuses on the historical heritage of the Chinese Communist Party for tourism development, these red scenic spots are especially popular around Party’s Day (1st July, the anniversary of the beginning of Communist Party of China). These cities are Guang’an, Yan’an, Xiangtan, Jinggangshan, Ruijin, Zunyi, Baise, Shijiazhuang, Linyi, Anyang, Yulin, Qingyang, and Hu ning.

As observed by many, with authorities investing millions in roads, monuments, and other infrastructure, Red tourism has increased in the past decade. China Daily reports, “Red tourism is gaining in popularity in Zaozhuang, Shandong province, local authorities said, with the city’s red destinations crowded becoming with tourists during holiday periods.”

As China steps up to promote “red tourism”, Jakarta Post reports, “More revolutionary museums will be open to the public for free and more creative cultural products of revolutionary relics will be developed, said the ministry.” The report also states that “China has 33,315 revolutionary sites and relics on record. Statistics show that more than 800 million red tourism trips are made on average every year. In the first 10 months of 2018, Jinggangshan received more than 10 million tourists, generating tourism revenue of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.49 billion), up almost 10 per cent year on year, according to local government figures.”

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With a renewed focus on revolutionary past on the watch of China’s current President, Xi Jinping, Atul Aneja notes in Red tourism is part of President Xi’s anti-poverty drive, “President Xi has also consistently vowed to retain his country’s ‘red’ identity — crashing hopes of those who have wishfully assumed that by shedding its red roots, China would one-day breakout into a Western-style democracy.”

In The rise of red tourism in China, Aneja also notes that “Not only is red tourism helping the authorities in eliminating rural poverty, but also promoting the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China (CPC).” Promoting communist values through tourism, he notes that  “China’s millennial and Generation-Z, especially, are being expertly blooded into the patriotic mainstream as framed by the CPC.”

Bloomberg notes, “…the party has been exploiting its history to reinforce ideology — especially to those in positions of influence. Behind the holiday spirit is President Xi Jinping’s campaign to bring the party, and the country, in line — a campaign that also includes feared anti-corruption measures and endless political inspections.”

In addition, the report notes that the Chinese government “earmarked 2.64 billion yuan ($370 million) to develop red tourism between 2016 and 2020, turning it into big business. Trips to sites associated with the country’s communist revolution accounted for 10% of domestic tourism spending in the first half of 2018, according to government statistics. State media estimate red tourism sites get 800 million visits a year.”


With the 6 month-long protests that have been going on in Hong Kong, China really needs to ignite young minds with “significance of the revolutionary history of China”.  The main target of the government’s revolutionary education comprises of people under the age of 20.

Bloomberg’s China Stirs Up Patriotism by Sending Tourists to Mao’s Old Haunts also notes, “The party is encouraging this patriotic nostalgia to bolster support in an economic slowdown and to cement backing for Xi as he combats months of civil unrest in Hong Kong and external challenges from a more assertive U.S. under President Donald Trump.”

While Chinese tourism sector has greatly benefited from a growing sense of patriotism among the public, can China divert world’s (and even Chinese public’s) attention from the real problems?


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