Money talks. And so do currency notes. China has issued a new 10 yuan banknote that does not carry a portrait of chairman Mao. This is, well, revolutionary.
The note is dominated by an image of The Bird’s Nest, the iconic Olympic stadium in Beijing. There is also an image of an ancient Greek discus thrower.
Currency notes are at one level mere pieces of paper. At another, they are useful emblems of legitimacy. The Chinese government says that this note is a solitary gesture for the Olympics. But even a one-time move to replace Mao with a mesh of steel is significant.
Most countries continue to display pictures of their national heroes or ruling monarchs on their currency notes. But we have a few modern examples of notes that break away from this tradition. The most obvious example is the euro. It is a supranational currency that is issued by a central bank not linked to any country. Russia has a different problem. It can neither use Lenin nor the czar on its roubles. And Vladimir Putin has not yet been anointed the new czar. If India were to move in this direction, we wonder what modern emblem could be used.