China's anti-waste campaign extends beyond dinner table

Updated: 2013-02-12 03:14


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BEIJING - China's official battle against extravagance is amassing real support in the country, and not just at the dinner table.

While the current Lunar New Year holiday is traditionally a peak time for conspicuous consumption, China is this year united against food waste. Echoing Chinese leader Xi Jinping's recent call for thrifty lifestyles, restaurants are buzzing with people advocating that no waste food be left on tables at the end of meals.

But citizens are finding that frugality means much more than that.

The People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published a survey last week, targeting the squander of excessive product packaging.

"Food should not be wasted, and conservation of natural resources and human resources are also as important," said Internet user "Piaoerbai" in a post on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service.

Media and members of the public also criticized the problem of arbitrary uses of power and public funds behind the extravagance.

The newspaper's survey quoted a shop assistant as saying that the store had done great business lately with a government department that bought scores of bottles of luxury alcohol in flashy packaging as presents, indicating that public money was being spent on frivolous consumption.

The use of government vehicles for private purposes also aroused people's attention.

Statistics from the Ministry of Finance showed that, in 2011, public spending on official receptions, trips and government vehicles reached 9.36 billion yuan (1.5 billion U.S. dollars). Money spent on government car purchases and maintenance accounted for 60 percent of the total sum.

In a special campaign between 2007 and 2012 to crack down on illegal purchases of government cars, a total of 199,600 cars were found to have been bought or used in violation of rules.

People dubbed the phenomenon "extravagance on wheels."

"The extravagance and corruption in the use of government cars not only undermines public funds, but also public trust in the Party and the government," said Zhu Lijia, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance.

In a commentary run by the People's Daily, the newspaper urged promotion of a rational, scientific and sustainable philosophy of consumption in the current Chinese society.

"The pursuit of a decent life should not turn into an unscrupulous indulging in material satisfaction," it said.

It also noted that to rectify the vice of extravagance, the entire society should work to provide more diversified views in evaluating people's achievements, fair opportunities for people's development and healthier concepts in people's lifestyles.