As the Communist leader is promoted once more by party leadership, his hometown is seeing a booming business in tourism and souvenirs. Residents say Mao would be happy to see them get rich.
In his life-time he worried about "the serious tendency toward capitalism among the well-to-do peasants". He was right to be worried. A visitor recently said, "I think that what Chairman Mao really intended was for Chinese people to get rich."
His birthplace, the village of Shaoshan (pop. 1,387) in Hunan, is expected to draw a record 3.5 million visitors this year, most of them Chinese paying homage to their late leader.
Even on a weekday, the queue to get into the mud-brick farmhouse where Mao was born in 1893 is three-wide and snakes around to the front lawn.
The Shaoshan where Mao grew up was a nondescript rice farming village where residents grappled with poverty and hunger. It matters not that Mao expressed no great love for his hometown and visited only twice after he became China’s leader.
The village now boasts a dozen hotels, a history museum and the headquarters of Mao’s Family Restaurants, a chain run by a distant relative that serves up some of Mao’s favorite dishes, such as hong shao rou — red braised pork.
Mao’s rehabilitation appears to have official sanction. In September, a film commissioned by the Communist Party to mark the republic’s 60th anniversary depicted Mao as jovial man of the people whose flaws (in one scene he gets drunk after a battle victory) made him more lovable.
The LA Times story reports on a Shaoshan businessman named Liu, who sells Mao souvenirs on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of EBay. He said, "From everything I’ve seen in his writings, I think he was an open-minded and tolerant person. I don’t think he would have minded people making a little bit of money."