Posts tagged ‘Banquet’

03/12/2013

The banquet that wasn’t — and then a gift horse | The Times

If I had been asked before this visit, I would have predicted that PM Cameron would have been feted with the traditional 10-12 course Chinese banquet that foreign dignitaries have been used to. To my shock and surprise, China‘s leaders are “walking the talk”, at least regarding frugality and austerity at banquets.  This is almost on the boundary of ‘losing face’; such is their determination to re-educate the CCP cadres in the right behaviour wrt to the people’s money.

Incidentally, I wonder if Mr Cameron or his protocol advisors realise the signal honour he was accorded to be hosted not only by his counterpart PM Li (as is appropriate) but also by President Xi (whose presence is only required when meeting a foreign head of state (which, of course is the Queen and not Mr Cameron).

“From a humble bowl of creamy mushroom soup to a political biography of Margaret Thatcher, yesterday’s gifts and meals were freighted with meaning.

David Cameron and Li Keqiang

Within hours of landing in Beijing and meeting Li Keqiang, his Chinese counterpart, David Cameron was entertained at a lunch with “banquet” in the title — but austerity very plainly on the menu.

Behind the grandeur of the setting in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the lunch held in Mr Cameron’s honour — a frugal repast that included bamboo fungus and boiled sea bass — was a reflection of a Chinese government campaign against sumptuous official banqueting and ostentatious expenditure from the public purse.

In the earliest days of his leadership of the Chinese Communist Party this year, Xi Jinping held a meeting of the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and said that officials should “conduct all their undertakings industriously and thriftily and stand fast against lavishness, hedonism and extravagance”.

Officials scrambled to swap their Rolexes and Hèrmes belts for dowdier accessories that would not be noticed by eagle-eyed citizens, and their lunches and dinners were downsized. Mr Xi made a mantra of the term “si cai yi tang” — the “four dishes and a soup” that qualify as China’s most basic meal.

As a People’s Liberation Army band played to accompany their lunch, Mr Cameron was served a meal that came acceptably close to four dishes and a soup. The soup was creamy mushroom and a “beef steak of Chinese style” provided the mainstay of four dishes that followed. In a culinary flourish that may have reminded the Prime Minister of school lunches in his youth, he was served sago pudding for dessert.

Mr Xi’s campaign against luxury has had a chilling effect on many restaurants in Beijing and on the producers of the high-end liquor that is now largely absent from the dinner tables of Chinese officials and military officers.”

via The banquet that wasn’t — and then a gift horse | The Times.

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16/09/2013

Off the Menu: Hong Kong Government Bans Shark’s Fin

Austerity and anti-graft comes to the rescue of sharks (whose fins are cut and hence the fish bleed to death).

WSJ: “Hong Kong may be the capital of the world’s shark’s fin trade, but as environmentalists step up their campaign against the delicacy, even this city’s government has declared it off-limits.

Last year, China’s government announced it would stop serving shark’s fin soup at official banquets, a move that was heralded by green groups around the world, though it will likely take years to come into effect. Now, Hong Kong is following suit, banning the dish at official events and requesting civil servants to refrain from eating it at other functions, along with other endangered species such as bluefin tuna and black moss. The move comes as international companies from luxury Shangri-La hotel chain to Cathay Pacific Airways have declared they will refuse to serve or carry most shark’s fin.

Altogether, said Allen To of the World Wildlife Foundation, more than 150 corporations have pledged not to serve the dish—a gelatinous, stringy soup that’s believed to have curative properties—at their own banquets. “But it’s still very common at wedding banquets,” said Mr. To, noting that at local restaurants, it can be more expensive for couples to swap out shark’s fin soup for other luxury dishes such as abalone or bird’s nest soup.”

via Off the Menu: Hong Kong Government Bans Shark’s Fin – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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