How Mao Became a Hipster Icon

While the fall of Bo Xilai and suppression of leftist revivalism shows a significant dip in Mao’s posthumous political standing, he remains, for some, a potent symbolic alternative to the country’s social and cultural ills. From Anand Giridharadas at The :

In Mr. Lau’s vintage store, the Maoist past is more than kitsch and Little Red Books for . He caters to nostalgic Chinese collectors, selling everything from a 1971 poster warning of nuclear war to wooden folding chairs used by moviegoers in Mao’s to a clip-on lamp evoking a soldier’s helmet.

He, too, smokes to reach his thoughts. His pants are hiply rolled up; he wears those cool, large plastic eyeglasses.

He is pondering why , why now. “In that period, all the emotion and passion are really rich,” he said. Not so today. “Now a lot of Chinese in China, they lost their values. Their values are just for chasing the money, chasing the flat. In that period, they were just chasing self-improvement or improving your country.”

Mao would be happy with this generous interpretation; fact checkers, less so. But as Mr. Lau speaks, it becomes apparent that this is not an argument for the merits of the Great Leap Forward, which caused a famine that reportedly killed tens of millions, or the , when art and religious sites were destroyed. It’s about modern discontents. For Mr. Lau, the flaws of the present, inverted, become virtues of that bygone time.

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