Spotted: Mao’s Red Flag Parked at China’s Great Hall

Chairman Mao Zedong’s Red Flag limousine made an appearance at China’s annual parliamentary meetings, two years after the car was revived to regain its standing as the ride of the nation’s leaders.

Though surrounded by dozens of gleaming black Audis, a lone Red Flag -- called Hongqi in China -- was parked today in the lot reserved for senior officials outside the Great Hall of the People’s north gate in Beijing. Inside the Hall, Premier Li Keqiang delivered his work report to almost 3,000 delegates in the opening session of the National People’s Congress.

China FAW Group Corp., which built the first Red Flag for Mao in 1958, has delivered more than 500 of the cars to government agencies after receiving state approval two years ago to restart production. Formerly called First Automotive Works, started by the Communist Party as a linchpin of China’s industrial policy, FAW has said the success of the Red Flag was a matter of dignity to the Chinese people.

The prevalence of Volkswagen AG’s Audi at the Great Hall parking lot indicates bureaucrats have yet to embrace local brands. It’s not just government officials flocking to foreign brands as combined sales of Chinese branded vehicles fell 5.1 percent in January, according to association data.

FAW made about 1,500 Red Flags -- reserved for high-ranking government and Communist Party officials -- in the two decades before the brand was discontinued in 1982 for excessive gas consumption. Since then, attempts to revive the brand, including at least three revamps from 1987 to 1990, failed, leading FAW to discontinue production in 2010.

French President Francois Hollande was ferried in a Red Flag L5 limousine during his state visit to China last year. FAW sent 20 Red Flag sedans to Fiji for use at the Group of Seventy Seven summit.

— With assistance by Tian Ying

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