BEIJING, NOV. 12 -- Forget the quotations from Chairman Mao. It was a quotation from Colonel Sanders that was the order of the day.

In Chinese, it goes, "haodao yun shouzhi," or, "so good you suck your fingers."

Kentucky Fried Chicken has come to Beijing, and while the Chinese might not find it as finger-lickin' good as Peking duck, thousands turned out here today to witness the formal opening of the first Western style fast-food restaurant in China.

Taking part in the ceremony were American ambassador Winston Lord, Beijing Vice Mayor Sun Fuling, and an anonymous actor who cavorted about in a bright orange chicken suit beneath a hot-air balloon shaped like the Colonel's trademark red-and-white chicken bucket.

The restaurant is on the edge of central Tiananmen Square, site of Mao Tse-tung's colossal mausoleum, and one wonders what the hero of Chinese Communism would have thought of this display of American capitalism.

It is something of a colossus in its own right, standing three stories high with a service staff of 150 and space for 512 customers.

It is the largest of the fried chicken firm's 7,400 outlets, and perhaps the largest fast-food operation in the world.

Inside, it is brightly colored and decorated with, among other things, pictures of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline and a poster proclaiming: "America -- Catch the Spirit." Outside the beige brick building stand life-sized replicas of the grinning, goateed Sanders himself, welcoming diners to "Ken-de-ji jia-xiang-ji," as the Chinese render Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The Colonel, or "Comrade Sanders" as some foreigners here have taken to calling him, never looked more at home.

delights of a standard "two-piece meal," which includes two pieces of chicken, a dollop of coleslaw, a bun and a scoop of mashed potatoes with gravy for seven yuan, or $1.89. In a country where the average monthly salary is about 100 yuan, ($27), seven yuan is a lot of money. But many of the restaurant's patrons are from China's new class of middlemen and entrepreneurs and seem to find the prices reasonable.

Most say they like the chicken, although some find the pieces too large and too salty. Many hate the coleslaw -- they refer to it as "raw cabbage" and as something no self-respecting Chinese should have to eat.

The biggest surprise is the mashed potatoes, a dish that translates into Chinese as something like "potato cement." It is proving to be a hit, nevertheless.

At least one customer even have to wait an hour.

"When Chinese eat they only feel full when they have a couple of bowls of rice or some noodles," he said. "So we don't feel satisfied after eating a plate of this."

The most striking aspect of the operation, perhaps, is the polite and eager service.

The low social standing and crowded working conditions for waiters and waitresses at most Chinese eating establishments here tends to promote gruff service at best, but the Colonel's newest employes have been taught to serve with a smile.

A waitress whose name tag read "Wang 001" said that she is very happy to have been selected to work there on the basis of her appearance and knowledge of English. Although the salaries are not much higher than the average, the workers eagerly sought their jobs because of the enhanced status that comes with working in an American enterprise.

The restaurant -- 60 percent owned by the Louisville-based Kentucky Fried Chicken chain and 40 percent by a Chinese government corporation -- was in limited operation for about a month prior to its official opening and, according to franchise officials, it has served 2,000 to 3,000 customers daily. Their expectation is that someday it will serve more than 45,000 meals a day and generate annual sales of several million dollars.

"For the time being we will reinvest all profits here," said KFC International President Steven Fellingham. "But the long-term potential for stores in a country with one billion people is mind-boggling."

And why not? A Chinese intellectual delicately holding the tip of a drumstick with a napkin to protect himself from finger-lickin' splatter was asked if he or other Chinese might not be offended by the placement of this monument to American capitalism next to so many monuments to Chinese communism.

"Oh, who cares," he said, munching on Comrade Sanders' handiwork. "Capitalism is no longer a bad word in China."