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Wanda to Build a $1.74bn Communist Party Theme Park in China

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One of China’s biggest property development companies has announced that it will build a “red theme park” as part of a major strategic partnership with the government of Shaanxi Province’s Yan’an, a city that is widely seen as the “birthplace” of the country’s Communist revolution.

The firm, led by one of China’s richest individuals Wang Jianlin, has earmarked 12 billion RMB’s (1.74 billion USD’s) worth of investment for the project, according to an official press release. Visitors to the complex will be able to stay in Communist-themed hotels, dine in Party-celebrating restaurants, receive “patriotic education” (which sounds a bit terrifying), visit “red theaters” and take in an “indoor red theme park”.

Where Disneyland Shanghai has the likes of Toy Story Land and Adventure Isle, the Wanda development will feature four main areas themed around “Revolutionary Culture”, “Military Entertainment”, “Passionate Years”, and “Traditional Intangible Cultural Heritage”. Before you get all excited about being able to ride a Xi Jinping rollercoaster, we should note that in using the words “theme park” here, Wanda may very well mean that literally: a themed park. We’re probably talking more wax models of Mao Zedong than red fireworks displays over a magical recreation of Zhongnanhai.

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The park is due to swing open its doors in 2021, when the Communist Party of China is set to mark its centenary.

Yan’an in central China has seen something of a boom in “red tourism” in recent years, as people have flocked to see where Mao Zedong and other key Party figures hid out in caves at the end of the Long March and plotted their takeover of the country.

A theme park of sorts already exists there too. A patchy pyrotechnic-laden stage show called “The Defence of Yanan” reenacts the “liberation” of Shaanxi folk by the Communists amid gun battles and plane bombings several times a day. For a small fee, you can join in yourself — either as a Communist or a member of the KMT.

communist theme park yanan

Communist theme park Defence of Yanan

Wanda will be looking to cash in on such revolutionary fervour with its new park, while also endearing itself to the powers that be in the run up to 100 years of China’s Communist Party. The firm has been criticized by officials of late for racking up some serious debt burdens, while its previous attempts to take on Disney in the theme park arena have not exactly gone to plan. As China’s leaders strive to ensure that their brand of tub-thumping nationalism is inextricably linked with love for the Party, this Communist-themed project seems like it could be considerably more profitable.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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