Published October 08, 2009
It was once Chairman Mao Zedong's very famous, very wide family limousine. Oddly enough, the car is now owned by American Laurence Brahm — lawyer, author, and collector of all things related to Mao.
"It's not easy to brake history and it's not easy to brake a Red Flag limousine either," Brahm jokes as he navigates the rusty car through a narrow Beijing street.
Mao, the leader of China from the Chinese Revolutoon in 1949 until his death in 1976, has made a comeback in recent years. And it's not only in Laurence Brahm's trendy Beijing restaurant, the Red Capital Club.
Ironically, Mao — who railed against capitalism — is now so popular that he has become a source of immense capital income across China. Mao's face is ever-present among souvenir vendors; he's on T-shirts, matches, even a revolutionary Mao alarm clock. And now, he's on the big screen.
Mao's status as the founder of modern day China is celebrated in a new state-sponsored film starring 200 of the country's biggest actors. In the film, Mao is depicted as the caring father of the nation, a leader who loves his soldiers and citizens. The filmmakers make few references to Mao's brutality, glossing over policies and political purges that resulted in the deaths of 40 to 70 million of his people.
"I think every culture, every people wants to have an icon and a hero. And very often they're kind of you know, the dirt of history gets covered over by the romanticism of an era," Brahm told FOX News.
And Mao has certainly taken on the role of icon with many in subsequent generations — the former leader's literature remains widely popular 60 years after his ascension to power. A bookstore in Beijing is seeing writings by the late Chinese leader fly off the shelves. Many of the store's customers claim that the global financial crisis supports Mao's belief that following the path of capitalism would lead the country to ruin and that communism is the true path.
"We started with nothing. Everyone had to work together. No rich, no poor," says Kong Dong Mei, granddaughter of Mao. She tells FOX News that her grandfather is a symbol of China's power and the spirit of communism.
So how would Mao, the champion of socialism, feel about his country 60 years after the Revolution?
On one hand, it was a dream of Mao's to see China emerge as a superpower. On the other hand, he wanted to close the gaps between rich and poor — gaps in wealth that are widening in modern China.
Mao was said to be fascinated by contradiction. And he once wrote, "The world is contradiction — contradiction is the world."
What's more contradictory than a communist government ruling a capitalist nation, with Mao as its modern symbol of unity?