Frugality campaign tames corruption, cools extravagance
Central authorities work to maintain ties with people
The Chinese central leadership’s frugality campaign, which was launched in December 2012, features the “eight-point rules”, which aim to curb extravagance and improve officials’ work style.
Sunday marked the fourth anniversary of the release of the rules, which banned redcarpet receptions for officials and use of public vehicles for private affairs, reduced pro forma meetings, avoided traffic disturbances such as road closures, and ordered austerity in official meals, travel and housing.
Four years on, the campaign has showed no sign of fading, and is still going strong as the central authorities strive to maintain close ties with the people and eliminate both “tigers” (corrupt senior officials) and “flies” (corrupt lower-level officials).
According to the Communist Party of China’s anti-graft agency, nearly 200,000 Party and government staff have been punished for violating the rules in the past four years, many who had held senior positions.
They were involved in more than 146,400 cases, about onequarter of which involved the use of public vehicles and dining out on public funds, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said.
The implementation of the frugality campaign must continue and be tightened up every year.” Li Kang, researcher at Jiangxi Academy of Social Sciences
Gu Jiuru, head chef at Quanjude, a famous roast duck restaurant chain, said he used to witness corruption during official or company receptions.
“The dishes were expensive, and some even contained ‘forbidden ingredients’, but they were more often thrown around rather than eaten,” he said.
Such waste is a rarity now, according to Gu, who said he is happy about this change, despite the hit to his revenue.
In fact, China’s catering industry was dealt a heavy blow by the austerity rules, and many high-end restaurants suffered for a time. The industry’s revenue growth slowed down in 2013 and 2014.
But surprising changes followed. Many food and beverage brands synonymous with luxury consumption cut their prices, got rid of their gaudy packaging and increased more “low-end” products, tapping the mass markets of ordinary people.
For example, a famous liquor brand cut the price of its flagship wine from more than 1,800 yuan ($260) per bottle to about 900 yuan per bottle, increasing sales.
In the first 10 months of this year, the revenue of China’s catering industry grew by 10.9 percent year-on-year, and annual revenue is expected to exceed 3.5 trillion yuan.
China has vacated and auctioned official cars and further regulated officials’ use of public vehicles, saving about 1.4 billion yuan in car purchasing and maintenance.
The latest rules on officials’ benefits, released on Nov 30, stipulate that Party and State leaders should vacate their offices in a timely manner upon retiring.
The new rules, regarded as “an expansion and upgrade” to the Party’s “eight-point rules”, also said officials should “travel without pomp”, minimize their impact on public life and not have vehicles exceeding the set standards.
In August 2013, the CCDI established a monthly reporting system to monitor the implementation of frugality rules, naming and shaming violators on its website.
However, CCDI statistics indicate that there is still much left to be done.
The statistics showed that 33,532 violations were reported from January to October this year, almost the same number reported for the whole of last year.
“The implementation of the frugality campaign must continue and be tightened up every year,” said Li Kang of the Jiangxi Academy of Social Sciences.