Citroen-Peugeot, the French automaker whose cars have been banned in the United States for violating highway safety regulations, apologized for offending the 1.3 billion inhabitants of the People’s Republic of China in an advertisement which mocked the Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. The ad showed Mao’s most famous portrait, distorted to show him smirking, along with a snide slogan trying to equate the automaker with Mao’s belief in continuous revolution.
One Chinese resident said, “It is not only insulting Chairman Mao, but the whole Chinese nation.” (Shanghai Daily, Jan. 15)
“Chairman Mao is the symbol of China, and what Citroen did lacks basic respect to China,” said another.
This comes just after massive celebrations of Mao’s 114th birthday spread across China. A Taiwanese newspaper commented that “Mao Zedong fever was sweeping the mainland” of China.
The Atlantic Monthly reported that 10 million copies of Chairman Mao’s collected works were sold last year in China and an epic-style film, “The Story of Chairman Mao,” was recently released on Chinese television.
People’s Daily reports that 5,000 people view Chairman Mao’s body in its mausoleum daily.
It is in this atmosphere that Citroen gave a serious and long awaited apology.