Xi revives Long March myths to rally party
AS China marks 80 years since the Red Army ended its epic Long March, the Communist Party is attacking revisionist history in an effort to compel reverence for its founding legend.
Facing annihilation at the hands of Nationalists during China’s civil war in 1934, some 80,000 communist soldiers and leaders – Mao Zedong among them – broke through encircling forces and embarked on a gruelling escape.
Nine out of 10 had deserted or died by the time the last units reached Yanan in the northern province of Shaanxi as much as two years later, where Mao and his cohorts founded a base from which they went on to take over the country.
According to Communist Party lore the marchers travelled at least 12,500 kilometres (7750 miles) through some of the country’s most remote and hazardous terrain.
The anniversary is being marked this week, with a daily drumbeat of newspaper articles and op-eds extolling their heroism.
President Xi Jinping has put his stamp on the occasion, visiting museums in the northern region of Ningxia and Beijing.
Mr Xi has declared the party must emulate the march’s spirit in pursuit of his “Chinese Dream”, a vaguely defined promise of national rejuvenation, and the party’s centenary goal to build a “moderately prosperous society” by 2021.
“The new generation should accomplish our new Long March,” he said.
The drive comes just ahead of a top party meeting in the capital this month, with speculation mounting that Mr Xi may delay appointing a successor and seek to stay in power beyond the traditional 10-year term.
Mr Xi’s embrace of the Long March reflects his desire to gather the party’s passion around him and channel Mao’s authority, said Liu Tong, historian at Shanghai Jiaotong University.
Xi Jinping has put his stamp on the anniversary celebrations.