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Chinese Village Holds Tight to Teachings of Chairman Mao


Nanjie Village in central China has turned back its clocks. The village dismantled its communes in the early 1980s, like villages all across China. But when the reforms did not take hold, the village organized farmers to re-collectivize their land and property. Sam Beattie reports from Nanjie.

Huang Zunxian's living room is lit by just one dim light bulb. Although it is dark, it is far from gloomy. The 72-year-old communist says it is all he needs, his faith in the Communist Party is his guiding light.

Huang says as common people, there is only one thing to do - listen to the party leadership, and do whatever they say. And, he says, people should aim to stay healthy and contribute more to Nanjie Village.

Huang's village, Nanjie in Henan Province in central China, is a throwback to 1960s. Then, the well-being of the state came over the needs of individuals, and everyone was supposed to work together for the benefit of the nation.

In 1978, then-leader Deng Xiaoping began economic reforms and started dismantling the nation's communes, in favor of a freer economy. Communities all over the country abandoned collective farms and factories, and began to take on the trappings of capitalism - private ownership, competitive business practices, consumerism.

But in Nanjie by the end of the 1980s, the standard of living had slipped, and the community started reorganizing itself back to a collective economy.

With the success of village-owned business by 1990 the people of Nanjie once again had everything they needed, yet most owned hardly anything at all.

The apartments in Nanjie are identical, and the collective owns everything in them - from the furniture to the appliances.

Dozens of red flags fly in the town's square, and giant portraits of the heroes of communism - Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin - line the main street.

Most of the residents are employed by village-owned factories. Their products range from instant noodles to consumer packaging, and the profits sustain the local economy. Workers receive about 30 percent of their salary in cash. The rest they get in benefits, such as housing and food, health care and education.

Benefits are handed out on a points system. Inspection committees regularly visit homes and award points for cleanliness, progress toward behavioral goals and obedience to the Communist Party.

Wang Hongbin has been the Communist Party secretary in Nanjie for more than 30 years.

He oversees the running of the village. His office is filled with paraphernalia celebrating Mao Zedong, who led the Communist Party in establishing the People's Republic of China. A sign hanging over his desk is a quote from Chairman Mao. It reads "Serve the People."

He says the village has developed a collective economy, to walk down the path of gaining wealth. He says the collective system is Mao Zedong's thought, strategy and policy.

While Nanjie has been holding to Mao's teachings, the rest of the country has turned to capitalism. Cities are filled with skyscrapers and shopping malls. Privately owned factories churn out goods for sale at home and abroad, and millions of Chinese are members of the middle-class, owning homes, cars, appliances and designer clothing.

In Nanjie, unlike most of the rest of China, there is no advertising for consumer products. Instead, political messages are plastered on buildings, and blasted over the airways.

Nanjie also has a multi-million-dollar park showcasing the life of Mao. In it are replicas of various houses where he once lived.

Mao's prominence here, and the people who are still living out his ideologies, have turned Nanjie into a tourist attraction.

Souvenir shops owned by the collective capitalize on a steady flow of curious visitors.

They sell everything from Mao busts and posters, to key rings and watches.

Sales assistant Wang Xinchao says no one in Nanjie is opposed to bringing in money. Everyone has just opted to share it equally.

The shop assistant says the tourists who come are jealous because in Nanjie, people live by Mao's philosophy.

Many of the village's 3,500 commune members say they are proud to still live according to Mao's word.

But they are a tiny holdout, as China's 1.3 billion people increasingly embrace a market economy.