Better red than … huh?

Unless you’re a typical American college professor, you might be mystified by the concept of China’s “red restaurants,” as profiled in the latest Newsweek:

Many of the Red-restaurant clientele were urban youths during the Cultural Revolution. In a nationwide campaign, they were sent to the countryside to reap the fruits of manual labor. These sojourns were often filled with long days of backbreaking work in the fields and lonely evenings. Still, many were inspired by communal life down on the farm. One such youth, Huang Zhen, decided to open Beijing’s Red Flag Fluttering restaurant in 2007, “so that people can remember the past,” he told Xinhua News Agency. Huang, now 58, instructed waiters to memorize Mao’s quotations and to dance the “loyalty dance” of the Cultural Revolution era, which involves a lot of fist-clenching to symbolize revolutionary ardor.

At Red Flag Fluttering, the majority of customers are in their 60s and 70s, usually arriving in groups to wallow in nostalgia for their years as youths “sent down” to the farm. “They like … the revolutionary songs, dances, and pictures, [which] bring their memories back to their Cultural Revolution experiences,” explains one waiter. He says customers also like the Red-themed dishes, such as one called “A Revolutionary Big Family,” consisting of nearly a dozen types of seafood and meat, and “Warriors Who Dashed Over the Luding Bridge,” a dish of chicken named after the site of a famous Red Army victory. As for the skits on class struggle, the waiter shrugged. “We simply want our customers to be entertained and to recall their old experiences without thinking too deeply of these social issues.”

Yes, you wouldn’t want people to think too deeply about the philosophy that led to one of the most murderous regimes in the history of mankind.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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