China bans “ObaMao” T-shirt during Obama’s presidential visit

| November 15th, 2009

If you ever walked through souvenir shops in Beijing this past year, you must have seen the line of “ObaMao” souvenirs – wallets, posters and T-shirts etc. The design is President Barack Obama’s face dressed in Chair Mao’s Red Guards’ cap and uniform. Ever since Barack Obama was elected as the U.S. president over the past year this T-shirt was selling like hot cakes. However Chinese government just banned this product, at least during Obama’s presidential visit in China. The reason was that they fear the T-shirt might offend the U. S. President and cause embarrassment.

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According to The Christian Science Monitor:

The item was selling like hot cakes in a Beijing souvenir shop until the government cracked down. “The Industry and Commerce Bureau came round last week and told us that if we sold this T-shirt we’d be closed down” said one hawker on a popular tourist street who preferred not to give his name.

He lamented the loss of business. “People are coming here every day asking for those T-shirts,” he added.

[muzi] A business revealed that they received a phone call from the Beijing city government, asking them to immediately stop selling them. There were also inspectors visiting the store to confirm that t-shirts have come off the shelf.

Businesses were also informed that once Obama leaves mainland China after the end of his visit, they can continue selling “ObaMao” t-shirts again.

Obama arrives in Shanghai, China on November 15, and goes to Beijing on the evening of November 16 to have dinner with Chairman Hu Jintao. Obama will leave China on November 18 from Beijing.

[Elton Zeng’s Blog] Liu Mingjie (刘明杰) was the creator of ObaMao, an entrepreneur who had been working at Siemens and Sysco as an engineer, three years ago a sudden idea made him determined to start his own business. His creations in addition to some tourist souvenirs with historical pictures, the recent masterpiece was this design of Barack Obama’s face in the chairman Mao’s Red Army era woodprint, he named it “ObaMao”. He used this design in variety of tourist souvenirs, adding some funny “Chinese style English” and was surprisingly successful. (Funny direct English translations of Chinese phrases have been viral jokes on the Chinese internet)

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The three ObaMao pictures above each printed with “English translation” of popular Chinese phrases:

“给您点颜色看看”、- “I will give you some color to see see” |  should mean “I will teach you a lesson.”

“好好学习,天天向上” – Good Good Study Day Day up | should mean “study hard and improve everyday”

“您问我,我问谁?” – You ask me, Me ask who? | this phrase was made popular recently on the Chinese internet, means “You ask me, who should I ask?”

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Liu Mingjie [China Daily/Wang Jing]

China Daily introduces Liu, who also goes by Stefan, the English-language name he adopted for his store, has sold more than 300 T-shirts and more than 1,000 ObaMao coin purses since he introduced the design two months ago at his store at No 20 Yandai Xiejie in the neighborhood near China’s famed Bell and Drum towers.

Liu said he’s had US customers who like or dislike Obama, but both kinds buy his T-shirts. "It’s a win-win," he said.

[quirkyBeijing]

“ObaMao” also appeared on the (Fake) Cover of Time.

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9 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Xiao Wang says:

    Not everyone is as thin-skinned as the Chinese. I am not American but I can’t imagine anyone raising an eyebrow because of that image. I think it’s rather funny tbh but we in “The West” do also have a long running tradition of making fun of or grilling our leaders (unpunished). Now where can I buy one?

  2. anon says:

    I think these obamao souvenirs are great. i can’t imagine they’d cause any offense. That image is far less offensive than the satrical cartoons and caricatures of him in newspapers everyday all over the world criticising his policies and actions, for example.

  3. I’m guessing the local Chinese have no idea what this even means. We don’t get Fox News here.

  4. Clubber Lang says:

    The song playing during the ending, when Rocky is victorious and shouting "ADRIAN! ADRIAN!" (which is how all the movies pretty much end) has always been the Rocky theme.

  5. Andreas says:

    See this interesting Video on Chinese Propaganda and the phenomenon of Oba-Mao: http://youtu.be/X2Ep14tNj4U

  6. I needed to send you this tiny remark to finally say thanks a lot once again for all the extraordinary pointers you have contributed on this site. It has been simply seriously open-handed with people like you to offer easily all that a lot of folks could possibly have advertised as an ebook to end up making some dough for their own end, principally now that you might well have done it if you desired. The guidelines in addition acted as the fantastic way to be certain that the rest have similar interest like my very own to realize many more on the subject of this matter. I’m sure there are many more pleasurable situations ahead for folks who view your site.

  7. daddy warbucks says:

    The Chinese are worried because they don’t want to be associated with this loser in any way

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