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TAIPEI (Reuters LIfe!) - Mao Zedong, the man who routed China's Nationalists in a civil war and sent them fleeing to Taiwan in 1949, has just surfaced behind convenience store counters on the same island.
Taiwan 7-Eleven stores are selling 4,000 cartoon-like figurine paperweights fashioned like the former Communist strongman because China-Taiwan relations are a big issue this year, said convenience store chain publicist Lin Chia-chen.
"Figurine toys are a popular trend in Taiwan," Lin said.
China has claimed sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan since 1949, and Beijing -- where the late Mao remains a hallowed political figure -- has vowed to bring Taiwan under its rule, by force if necessary.
But since China-friendly Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May, relations have thawed with a series of trade and transit deals, including permission for as many as 3,000 Chinese tourists to visit the once largely forbidden island per day.
However, locals often still shun symbols of Communist Beijing, and sales have been short of brisk since the tiny Maos stormed into 2,500 stores going for T$399 (about $12) apiece last week.
The stores are also selling piggy banks that look like Chiang Kai-shek, the former Taiwan strongman who took the Nationalist Party (KMT) to Taiwan, and party founder Sun Yat-sen. Ma is also backed by the KMT.
Reporting by Ralph Jennings