China prepares for Oba Mao

Tea party alert: The president's upcoming Asia trip exposes his secret past as a revolutionary comrade-in-arms

By Andrew Leonard
Published October 20, 2009 8:35PM (UTC)
main article image

Oba Mao! Oba Mao! Oba Mao! Where tea-partiers and Chinese Communist capitalist commodification intersect! Socialist realism was never so real. Who needs to dig up old videos of Obama staffers praising the Chairman when you can go directly to the source?

If the pictures displayed at this overseas Chinese Web portal are any indication, President Obama's upcoming visit to China is stirring up some excitement on the mainland. Or, as Google Translate helped me comprehend, it is "setting off an upsurge in China." The image of Obama, or, "Oba Mao," dressed up in a Chinese military uniform, can now be found on t-shirts and other cheap manufactured goods.


My favorite is the t-shirt which has the slogan "Wei Renmin Fuwu" -- "Serving the People -- printed beneath the Oba Mao image. Truth in advertising, without question.

But I need some help here parsing the symbolism of these images.

Does a T-shirt with Obama dressed as a 1940s version of Mao mean that...


A: The tea partiers are correct, and Obama is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionary Manchurian candidates intent on enshrining permanent revolution in the United States?

B: The Chinese are so excited about Comrade Obama's arrival that they are venerating him with the same respect and awe as they do the Great Helmsman?

C: The Chinese are so cynical and market-oriented that if they see a way to make a buck by dressing up Obama as Mao, they'll do it?


UPDATE: A correspondent informs me that the calligraphy for "Wei Renmin Fuwu" looks like Mao's handwriting.


D: Some people serve the people, some people oppress the people, but a cool t-shirt is a cool t-shirt?

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew LeonardFOLLOW koxinga21LIKE Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Bolivia China How The World Works Valentines Day