Capitalism finds a home in the village where Chairman Mao was born

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Entry to the mud-brick farmhouse that was the birthplace of Mao Zedong is still free. The queue snakes to the fish pond where as a child he discovered a love for swimming. In the doorway stands a paramilitary guard, clearly selected for the job because of his imposing height.

Visitors are flooding to the southern village of Shaoshan in record numbers as the 60th anniversary of Communist Party rule approaches. More than 2.5 million people came here to venerate its founding father in the first half of this year, more than in all of 2008.

With tourism comes money. The poor village that Mao left as a teenager to fight for revolution and equality is among the richest in Hunan province. Restaurants and souvenir stalls have multiplied in a show of the strength of private enterprise that Mao would have abhorred.

This is no shrine to a man whose ideas of perpetual revolution are outdated in a society where getting rich is paramount. As the Communist Party presides over one of the greatest economic miracles in history, Mao represents its last major link to its revolutionary past.

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