WSJ: “First baijiu, then red carpets, and now mooncakes. For Chinese government officials, the list of taboos keeps getting longer.
One month before the country celebrates its annual Mid-Autumn Festival, Chinese authorities said Wednesday that they are barring officials from buying mooncakes—a centerpiece of the holiday—as well as giving presents or hosting dinners on the public dime.
Traditionally, mooncakes are gifted (and often re-gifted) as a form of tribute during the festival, exchanged among family members as well as among companies, their clients and employees. “But this kind of polite reciprocity, when overdone, becomes a kind of squandering of cash,” ran an editorial in the People’s Daily on Thursday, praising the mooncake crackdown.
About the size of a hockey puck and traditionally stuffed with anything from red bean paste to salted egg yolk, these days, the once-humble mooncake is barely recognizable. Some are now made of solid gold and others come swathed in pure silk. Such is the luxury nature of some mooncakes that in past years, talk of a “mooncake bubble” circulated, while in 2011, China’s government proposed that workers pay income tax on the value of cakes gifted to them by their employers.
Given the frenetic pace of mooncake gift-giving, they’ve long been seen as an easy vehicle for corruption. Many environmental NGOs have also condemned the modern crop of mooncakes, criticizing their elaborate packaging as wasteful.
This week’s mooncake crackdown is part of a broader attempt to quell anger about public corruption, which in recent years has been stoked by the sight of officials gorging on lavish banquets and indulging in other excesses, including luxury watches and more. Thursday’s editorial in the People’s Daily, for example, cited the anti-mooncake move as part of President Xi Jinping’s effort to educate Party members about the evils of the “Four Winds,” i.e. “formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and waste.”
On Thursday, some users on Sina Weibo, China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service, though, were less than impressed. “”The system doesn’t change, these kinds of trivialities aren’t of any use,” wrote one.
Others mourned the idea that the confections were facilitating corruption. “A holiday that was once simple and pure has been transformed by China’s corrupt bureaucracy into something with a different meaning,” wrote another. “How sad.”
Still others took the opportunity to rail against mooncakes in general. Despite the holiday zeal for them, many languish uneaten for weeks after they’ve been gifted. “They’re just a mix of stuff high in fat, high in sugar, and high in additives,” wrote one user.
“They’re not tasty and they’re expensive,” added another. “No wonder that other than during the Mid-Autumn festival, people don’t eat them.””
via Mooncake Austerity Hits China’s Mid-Autumn Festival – China Real Time Report – WSJ.