China luxury ban cools mooncake fever
Updated: 2014-09-04 20:57
BEIJING - Mooncakes, small round pies symbolizing family reunions in Chinese tradition, are going back to the basics with exchange of deluxe gift boxes between officials losing appeal amid a national frugality campaign.
"This year's mooncake box sets stick to low prices and target ordinary people. Those with sky-high prices have basically disappeared," Li Zhen, principal of a Tianjin outlet under the China Resource Vanguard supermarket chains, told Xinhua.
With promotional methods such as two for the price of one, a mooncake box set with several fillings costs as low as 70 yuan (11.4 US dollars), Li said. In contrast, "deluxe editions", lavishly decorated and occasionally filled with valuables to be used as a bribe, easily reached thousands of yuan in the past.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Monday this year, is a traditional Chinese holiday during which families reunite under the full moon and eat mooncakes. The festival, like many others, is also an excuse for subtle bribery.
Last year, the country's disciplinary departments were urged to tighten supervision and enforcement of rules to reduce corruption. Practices such as the use of public funds to buy gifts, hold banquets and pay for holidays, as well as extravagance and waste, have been strictly banned.
With the festival approaching, mooncakes, once again, have become a hot spot issue.
During an August crackdown on breaches of conduct by officials, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China (CPC) routinely uncovered officials using public funds to buy mooncake as gifts.
The CPC disciplinary watchdog even opened a special section on its official website for reporting cases of public funds for moon cakes.
In addition to prices, the crackdown led to simpler packaging.
"The mooncake box sets we are presenting this year are mostly packaged with recycle materials, with no deluxe designs," said Gao Houji, general manager of a mooncake manufacture company in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province.
According to Gao, the company's sales of box sets so far dropped one third from last year while mooncakes sold in bulk increased by one third.
The country should disassociate mooncakes with vanity and corruption and stress it as part of traditional cultural values, Feng Jicai, a renowned author and cultural figure, during an online interview at the CCDI website last month.
"Substituting a wonderful tradition with utilitarian notions will result in bad social ethos. A piece of mooncake going sour means the loss of an entire festival," he said
Feng suggested making full use of the festival as a special occasion to deter officials' misconduct.
"Mooncakes sold much better in basic packages this year. It's heartening to see the mooncake is back to its essence," said Guo Fusheng, head of the Yunnan Food Industry Association.
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