Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mao Watch

For any pack of Anglos traveling in China, some things are impossible to avoid. Street vendors, for example. (Lord of War is already out in DVD.)

And Mao.

Mao has been dead for nearly 30 years, but he is omnipresent. In a fading portrait of the young revolutionary at the porcelain factory. As the man in full overseeing Tienanmen Square. In a visage staring back at every citizen who handles currency in any denomination.

This is the Reaganite wet dream come to complete fruition.

But Mao is also a comic lord, a patron saint of the new "market economy," which is Chinese for screw all the oppression of the past 50 years and the whores it rode in on.

Mao included.

The Mao index is a refreshing, or at least revealing, measure of how economic reforms are affecting China. Mao is not simply a political icon. He is the ultimate dead celebrity icon — the Mona Lisa, Einstein, George Washington and Marilyn Monroe rolled into one.

He is for sale on rucksacks, medals (real or reproduced), stamps, t-shirts, the little red book, with helpful English translation, and the ubiquitous Mao Watch.

Forget bogus Rolexes; the Mao watch is the souvenir you want. I picked up two for $6.00. One is still running, and the other can be coaxed back to life. It's just hard to get used to winding a watch, especially one you think you might break. (Needs no battery, if you want to look on the bright side.) Versions of these are available in states, starting at $1.00 on eBay — plus $16.00 shipping & handling — but don't have the same cachet as one brought back from the Forbidden City ( shipping & handling may be higher).

I could be wrong, but I didn't read this as a hero worship. More like the ultimate exorcism. What better way to be rid of a monster — a new biography argues for monsterhood — than to exploit him commercially?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen those watches for sale @ They look pretty cool. I might get one.....

5:49 PM  

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