50 years after Mao, the cult of Xi gains ground in China

BEIJING - The blossoming personality cult around Chinese President Xi Jinping is casting a shadow over the country's social and economic activities, invoking memories of the decade-long chaos under Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution that began 50 years ago.

Pet projects

Officials in Chongqing are working hard to increase freight rail shipments passing through the inland Chinese city. The goal is to establish one daily round trip from the city directly to Europe.

"Actual demand for shipments is plunging due to the economic slowdown in Europe," an industry source said. Yet the seemingly unprofitable project forges on, thanks to Xi.

Xi visited Germany's Duisburg port, the end point of a cargo rail link from Chongqing, in March 2014, where he said that China and Germany must join hands in creating an economic belt. His visit demonstrated the importance of railroads to his "One Belt, One Road" initiative, designed to create a massive economic zone along historic Silk Road routes.

Beijing appears preoccupied with advancing Xi's pet projects, with no leeway for considering cutbacks. Some government officials voice concerns about the country's finances, since almost any project linked to the One Belt, One Road initiative is given funding.

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