It is not yet the Chinese New Year or Chun Jie (春节), but amongst other excitement, China has rung in the Gregorian New Year with a golden gift. In the eastern province of Henan a 120-foot high (36.6 meter) gold-leafed statue of Mao Zedong was unveiled.
The gargantuan effigy has accumulated praise and contempt from Chinese netizens.
There is no question Mao is still the face of the nation even after 39 years since his death in 1976. The Great Helmsman’s image still hangs, ever watchful over Tian’anmen Square. Thus many still revere the man who brought the Communist Party to power and building the foundation of modern China.
Many countries throughout the world pay homage to their great leaders with awe-inspiring structures and various statues. At the same time, many are questioning the timing, placement and grandeur of this most recent graven image.
Henan Province is still one of the most destitute regions given minimal aid due to its proximity to the coast. Foreign analysts attribute such reasoning to a trickle-down-wealth theory. In addition, it historically was one hit hardest by the famines of the “Great Leap Forward” a situation that seems to have seen little change in almost sixty years despite China’s economic growth. To add insult to injury, Tongxu (通许县) is an agrarian county, and great swaths of arable land were sacrificed for the tourist attraction.
Among the eminent supporters who have praised the structure is China’s President Xi Jinping who has often given praise to his forbearer. Analysts have drawn multiple correlations between Mao and Xi’s political prominence.
It remains to be determined whether consensus deems the colossal Chairman’s immortalization a point of pride or an eyesore. For now, it casts a giant bifold shadow: either one of continued protection or obscured truths.