Xi Jinping’s luxury-slashing regulations for China’s officials would be a challenge to implement at any time of year, but the Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year, poses a particular problem.
Festival time overflows with ceremonial “red envelopes” stuffed with cash, sumptuously packaged presents, and lavish banquets.
None of the above would seem to fit with the “frugal working style” imposed on officials by the new regulations.
Among those items explicitly banned by the new rules are floral arrangements and welcoming banners for visiting officials.
Xi’s frugality campaign seems angled to stave off increasingly intense anti-corruption sentiment among the public.
According to Chinese media reports, some officials are determined to keep the Spring Festival spirit alive despite this shift in mood.
One waiter at a high-end restaurant told reporters several government departments booked banquets as usual, while swearing hotel and restaurant staff to secrecy.
Other departments have moved their celebrations to internal restaurants, where officials can gourmandize out of the public eye.
It is common for government offices to have a canteen where employees can dine in privacy, or be treated to meals by invited guests.
One executive at a state-owned company told news agency Xinhua, “It used to be an unspoken rule to invite officials to starred hotels, while now starred-hotel cooks are invited to canteens.”
Nine air force officers and administrative cadres were reportedly punished recently for hosting receptions where alcohol was consumed.
An additional 40 lower-ranking cadres were dismissed or received a serious warning for similar violations.
A military code of conduct issued in December prohibits drinking during official receptions.
As some officials try to skirt anti-extravagance rules, Chinese microbloggers are uploading photos of picked-clean plates to combat food wastage.
Millions of netizens have reportedly taken part in a social-media initiative against waste, dubbed “operation empty plate.”
According to China Central Television (CCTV), China wastes 200 billion yuan ($32 billion) worth of food each year.
Sources: The Beijing News (新京报), Xinhua News (新华社), People’s Daily (人民日报), Southern Daily (南方日报)
A version of this post appeared in the China Compliance Digest. For a limited time, subscribers to China Compliance Digest will receive the China Anti-Corruption Handbook (normally $750) and FCPA Blog membership (normally $495) at no extra charge. Details are here.