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$16 million gold Mao statue unveiled in China to commemorate his 120th anniversary
A gold and jade statue of Mao Zedong is displayed at an exhibition in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province on December 13, 2013. The statue, worth more than 16 million USD was unveiled on December 13, in the latest example of Communist China's indecision over how to commemorate its founding father's 120th anniversary. AFP PHOTO.

BEIJING (AFP).- A gold and jade statue of Mao Zedong worth more than $16 million was unveiled Friday, in the latest example of Communist China's indecision over how to commemorate its founding father's 120th anniversary.

The statue, 80 cm (32 inches) tall but weighing more than 50 kilograms, was put on display in the southern boom town of Shenzhen, China National Radio (CNR) reported.

The city was little more than a fishing village a few decades ago, and its booming prosperity epitomises China's transformation since the days of Mao's command economy.

The figure depicts the founder of the People's Republic of China reclining in a chair, legs crossed.

A team of 20 artists took eight months to complete the 100 million-yuan ($16.5 million) work, which is accented with precious stones and rests on a base of white jade, CNR said.

It did not specify who had commissioned or paid for the statue.

But conflicting signals have emerged from China's leadership about their approach towards commemorating the 120th anniversary of Mao's birth on December 26.

President Xi Jinping, who has moved to cut back on lavish banquets and other over-indulgences since taking office, told officials in Mao's home province of Hunan last month that celebrations should be "solemn, simple and pragmatic".

The state-run Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, reported Thursday that an event titled "Reddest is the Sun and Dearest is Chairman Mao" scheduled for Beijing's Great Hall of the People on the anniversary, has been rebilled as a "New Year's Gala" and its poster redesigned.

Party authorities had informed the organiser any Mao-themed events required advance approval, he told the paper.

According to the Global Times, a 100-episode TV series on Mao slated to run in December on state broadcaster China Central Television will not be shown, with a series on a Chinese military leader running instead.

Hunan provincial officials have spent 15.5 billion yuan ($2.54 billion) on 16 projects linked to the occasion, according to state media, including the renovation of a tourist centre and building high-speed rail stations and highways.

After being exhibited in Shenzhen, CNR said the gold statue will be placed in the Mao Zedong memorial in his birthplace Shaoshan.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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