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New Left Review I/89, January-February 1975

Claude Aubert

People’s Communes: How to Use the Standard Visit

The tourist who visits the Chinese countryside for the first time has the disconcerting feeling that he is entering a different world. According to his inclinations, he may exultantly discover in it a revolution successfully carried through on a land smitten in the past with calamities, where new social structures have reestablished an ‘ecological’ balance between man and nature and a ‘socialist’ balance between man and man. Or he may make the astonishing discovery of an agrarian civilization still close to its origins. Whether he is a revolutionary, an idealist or a nostalgic conservative, the visitor will always have the impression that he has reached an unknown ‘back of beyond’—especially if the last stage of his journey has been over a dirt road that has shaken him up and thoroughly acclimatized him. And yet there are no roads so regularly frequented as these, bringing as they do the same cohorts of ingenuous visitors to the same People’s Communes (a few dozen out of 74,000) carefully chosen by the official Chinese tourist agency, Luxingshe.

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Claude Aubert, ‘People’s Communes: How to Use the Standard Visit’, NLR I/89: £3

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