A $16-million gold and jade statue of Mao Zedong was unveiled in the prosperous southern boomtown of Shenzhen on Friday, weeks ahead of his 120th birth anniversary.
State media said the 80-cm statue, weighing 50 kg, was built by 20 artists over eight months. The gold statue is built on a white jade base.
China’s Communist Party (CPC) is planning a series of events to mark the December 26 date, though a number of recent edicts by new leader Xi Jinping have suggested the celebration will not be as grand as originally planned.
The local government in Shaoshan, Mao’s birthplace, has spent two billion Yuan ($330 million) on development and tourism projects ahead of the anniversary, according to a recent Chinese media report.
Mr. Xi, however, said during a visit to Hunan celebrations should only be “solemn” and “pragmatic”.
The Global Times newspaper reported last week that a 100-episode television series on Mao, due to be broadcast in December, appeared to be replaced by a show about Nie Rongzhen, a PLA general.
The paper quoted a scholar as saying the move to tone down celebrations may have been aimed at the Party’s Leftist and conservative elements, who may have been looking at the anniversary as an opportunity to drum up support to block recently announced economic reforms.
“The authorities don’t want the commemorations for Mao to be high-profile,” said Wang Zhanyang, director of the Political Science Department at the Central Institute of Socialism. “Some regional conservative people and officials with vested interests want to restrain reform by falsely promoting some of Mao’s most conservative thoughts, which is not what the Party follows.”