Hu tracks tradition in Red Flag limo and Mao suit

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 October, 2009, 12:00am

President Hu Jintao put on a 'Mao suit' for his inspection of China's military forces yesterday, tracking a National Day tradition handed down from late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping .

Both Deng and Hu's predecessor, Jiang Zemin, also wore grey Mao suits in the military inspections in 1984 and 1999 respectively.

Hu's looked darker than Jiang's but lighter than Deng's. Media reports had said Hu's suit was specially tailored for yesterday's event, incorporating many innovations in design and style.

'Putting on a Mao suit for the National Day military inspection is a show of respect for Chinese national traditions and also a symbol of the highest [Communist] party and state leader in China,' military historian Jiang Tingyu said during the online broadcast of the National Day celebration on

Of China's paramount leaders, only Mao Zedong and Deng actually commanded field battles. However, Jiang and Hu, each as chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, were and are constitutionally the leaders of the nation's military forces.

As a gesture to the world that China was a civilian regime, Deng discarded his military uniform and put on a Mao suit while inspecting the military parade on the 35th National Day in 1984, and the practice has been followed since.

Hu, like his predecessors, zoomed past the military forces, standing in an open-roofed black Hongqi (or Red Flag) limousine, the brand of car Mao favoured.

China produced its first Hongqi car in 1958, which was first used the following year as the exclusive vehicle for the military leader's National Day inspection.

But Hu's vehicle was superior. First Automobile Works, which manufactures the Hongqi, said Hu's car was completely handcrafted based on patented Chinese technology, ensuring the vehicle was the most advanced in China with an engine technically competitive with any other in the world.

Hu's car, featuring three rows of seats, is more than six metres long and reportedly worth more than three million yuan (HK$3.4 million).

Different from his predecessors, Hu's car carried a special plate numbered V02009, meaning it belongs to a guard brigade controlled by the party's Central Committee and was used this year. Hu, however, seemed unable to fully relax during much of the otherwise carnival-like event.

Throughout the military inspection and the civilian parade involving 100,000 people, Hu appeared solemn in the live television broadcast, without a trace of a smile on his face.

But when the blocks of service and militiawomen, who were wearing red miniskirts, berets and mid-calf boots filed past, his face broke into a grin.

When the float depicting Taiwan rumbled past the gate and swarms of cheering children ran towards the gate in the finale of the more than two-hour National Day celebration, Hu grinned again, waving his hands.