Where Mao's Spirit Lives

On the 50th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, Tiananmen Square is decked out to be the center of a massive celebration of a revolution that's still continuing.

After decades of harsh communist rule, most of China has embraced market capitalism. Still Communist leader Mao Tse-tung is much more than a historical figure. CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports from one village where the thoughts of Chairman Mao still rule.
The echoes of the past haunt the streets of Nanjie; strains of the Communist anthem are heard.

And in the main square a proud new statue of Chairman Mao towers in this village that's gone back for its future, back to Mao and his style of communism.

Mao's collectivism and his ban on private ownership drove China's economy into ruin. Thirty million starved to death. Collectivism died with Mao.

Nanjie tried the new ways, capitalist ideas such as private farms, but they failed here. So the 3,400 villagers decided they would rather be as they once were, part of a communist collective.

Committed communist Wang Hognbin led the retreat. He quotes Mao and says by working together they get rich together.


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Children learn more than Mao's slogans. If they get into college, the village pays their way. Doctors and medicine are free, so are care for the elderly and even funerals.

This cradle-to-grave life is paid for by profits from businesses like the village noodle factory. Mao might frown that it's a joint venture with foreign companies but foreman Jong smiles.

He says he only makes $30 a month but he's happy here and that's more important.

Villagers are evaluated once a year, and they must do more than just a good job. They have to keep their apartments clean. They have to show respect for their parents. But most of all, they still have to be true believers - true believers in Mao's communism.

Nanjie is a glimpse of what all China might have been had communism succeeded.

At the Li family household, daughter Mong's piano is about all that's privately owned. The apartment, the TV, VCR and the apples are all supplied by the commune.

Mrs. Li says they feel safe, and she and her husband will never lose their jobs.

At the local opera school, paid for by the village, children sing communism's praises. Today Mao wouldn't recognize the China he took over 50 years ago. But Nanjie teaches its children that at least in this village communism had it right. And that would be music to Mao's ears.
©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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