A Chinese professor has been fired after enraging leftists with an online criticism of Chairman Mao Zedong on what would have been on the leader's 123rd birthday.

Mao, who died on Dec. 9, 1976, is still officially venerated by the ruling Communist Party as the founder of modern China. His face appears on every yuan banknote.

But he is particularly respected by leftists who believe the country has become too capitalist and unequal over three decades of market-based reforms. Attitudes toward Mao and his legacy mirror differences between reformers and traditionalists.