Starting next year, smoking in public will be illegal in China, meaning an end to 'ashtray diplomacy'.

Beijing, China - With rhetoric frequently echoing the Great Helmsman, President Xi Jinping has on several occasions given the impression of being a loyal Maoist. But there's one burning issue on which China's leader goes head-to-head with Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping - the war against smoking.

Chairman Mao Zedong was a notorious chain-smoker. In an epic black-and-white photograph from 1957, the dictator is seen sitting on a sofa surrounded by a group of young women from the Communist Youth League happily helping him to light a cigarette.

During the Communist Revolution, Mao famously promised his troops food, shelter and cigarettes.

When his personal physician tried to warn him about the damaging effects of smoking, the leader dismissed him with a joke: "Smoking is also a deep-breathing exercise, don't you think?"

Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping, can be seen in photographs puffing away during top diplomatic meetings. In a shot from 1984, he's sitting relaxed in an armchair during talks with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, nonchalantly holding a cigarette between his fingers. And during peace talks with Japan's Prime Minister Fukuda Takeo in 1978, "Deng took out a pack of Panda cigarettes and offered cigarettes to everyone, which immediately lightened the mood", Ezra F Vogel wrote in a biography about Deng.

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