IF you have not already sold off your shares in companies producing Mao Zedong 100th-anniversary memorabilia, you had better move fast - you won't be able to give the stuff away in few days' time. Yesterday's ceremony in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, to mark the Great Helmsman's birth 100 years ago, effectively sounded the death knell for the multi-million dollar industry that grew even faster than China's money supply in the first half of the year. It is impossible to estimate just how many companies have been involved in the production of Mao memorabilia this year, but just about every commodity imaginable, from tiepins to limited-edition gold watches worth 20,000 yuan (about HK$26,800 at the official rate), has featured the chairman's face. Dozens of books, calendars, audio and video cassettes were rushed out to meet the insatiable demand for information about the Great Helmsman, while television stations and film studios devoted huge amounts of money and manpower towards producing the definitive documentary, gala concert or feature film. But the demand for such products is likely to fall off dramatically in the next week or so, as the year comes to an end. The Communist Party, which largely orchestrated the new Mao cult, has achieved its goal of equating Mao's ideas with those of the current paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, thereby assuring the legitimacy of the new regime. It will not want to see Mao fever go on for any longer than is necessary. The party is well aware that many people are exalting Mao as a symbol of good government in a covert protest against Mr Deng's reformist policies. It does not want to see the cult get out of hand. That said, popular interest in Mao is likely to wane of its own accord in the near future, without any help from the party. Although Mao fever got going again about three years ago, when taxi drivers in southern China first started hanging laminated photographs of the Great Helmsman above their dashboards, it only took off properly with the 100th anniversary. Once the anniversary has passed, the fascination with Mao is likely to die away very rapidly. Mao fever is likely go the same way as Olympic fever earlier this year. Virtually the whole of Beijing got into the Olympic spirit this summer in anticipation of staging the 2000 Olympics in the Chinese capital, but when International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch announced on September 23 that the Gameswould be going to Sydney, Beijing's Olympic spirit vanished in a puff of smoke. No one seemed the slightest bit interested in staging the 2004 Olympics, it being of ''no significance''. Likewise, the 101st anniversary of Mao's birth is unlikely to inspire much interest. Worst hit by the declining interest in Mao will be the folks in his home town of Shaoshan, in the southern province of Hunan, who made a killing from selling souvenirs to the thousands of pilgrims who have descended on the village each week of the year. The village set up a huge open-air market selling a mind-boggling array of Mao kitsch, and about a dozen Mao-inspired restaurants sprang up on the small main street catering to the culinary needs of the tourists. Business will undoubtedly take a downturn next year, but most villagers are fairly sanguine about the cycles of the socialist market economy and feel they can adapt easily to the future. As the manager of a small workshop packaging Mao anniversary watches in Shaoshan said: ''Well, I guess we will just have to think of something else to do next year.''