China is warning its officials to keep away from luxury mooncakes, even though the round pastry-featured Mid-Autumn Festival is still one and a half months away. A notice released by the central authorities on Thursday has barred officials buying gifts and giving bonuses with public money during any holidays including the Mid-Autumn Festival. The festival has long been associated with corruption and extravagance with its gift-giving custom among officials. A specialty for the festival, mooncakes, used to pop up in ornate boxes along with fancy goodies to make them presentable gifts to, mostly, officials and bosses.
The latest ban is necessary to constrain the bad custom from resurging, after a nationwide austerity campaign brought a lull to the practice last year. In fact, documents of bans have been circulated around every holiday and key occasions during the whole year, leaving no room for Chinese officials’ neglect of frugality. Like a stubborn illness, a bad practice can’t be “cured” by a single remedy, instead it needs a lasting medication. Last year’s campaign largely suppressed the practice, but obviously it has not been rooted out and has turned underground.
Different from openly promoting mooncakes in supermarkets and hotels before, businessmen have adopted for a more “covert” way. They have replaced the cakes with shopping cards and coupons, made deals online and given gifts by express delivery. They rack their brains to find ways of gift giving “more safe” and low profile. However, trying to disguise corruption will only lead to stronger inspections and a crackdown from the authorities. China’s anti-graft chief Wang Qishan vowed earlier this month to maintain a “high-voltage” crackdown on corruption and sharpen the “Sword of Damocles” hanging over officials. In June, anti-graft authorities punished 6,601 people for breaching anti-extravagance rules, including receiving fancy gifts, feasting on and travel with public funds.
There are some officials and businessmen thinking the austerity drive as a short episode for the new leadership to declare their power and will be relaxed sooner or later. Unfortunately they are terribly wrong. They have underestimated the leadership’s resolution to wipe out the internal bad practice and punish corrupt officials, which the Party regards as the biggest peril for its survival. Those with the illusion would better give it up soon and forever.
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Article: Global Post