Earlier this year, overzealous entrepreneurs and villagers erected a statue of Mao in a Henan field. It was over 36.6 meters (120 feet) tall, painted gold, and, if one can believe the People’s Daily Online, cost nearly half a billion dollars to build.
The exact purpose of the statue, aside from “commemorating” Mao, was unclear, but the Great Helmsman’s stolid gilded countenance bore witness to the contradictory attitudes that prevail in today’s China, where the shadow of Mao and the ghosts of Tiananmen still mingle, and where President and Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has taken on some of Mao’s cultish allure.
Social media users mocked the giant statue, noting the irony of its placement in Henan province, which was one of the hardest hit regions during the famine that resulted from Mao’s Great Leap Forward.
Then, days after its completion, officials moved in to dismantle the statue. Its legs were torn off and a black cloth was draped over its head. Again, the exact reason was not publicly stated, but local officials did say the statue’s construction was not registered and approved by the relevant ministries.