23 May 2019
Shark fin and bird's nest soup have been banned from menus at Chinese official receptions. Photo: Bloomberg
Shark fin and bird's nest soup have been banned from menus at Chinese official receptions. Photo: Bloomberg

POLICY WATCH: Fresh frugality drive as festive season nears

As the holiday season approaches, China’s leaders have sent a fresh reminder to government and Communist Party officials of the need to curb extravagance and wasteful expenditure on things such as receptions, banquets and travel. 

Carrying forward the campaign launched by President Xi Jinping {習近平} earlier this year, the government said Dec. 8 shark fin, bird’s nest soup, exotic wild meat and expensive alcoholic drinks will be banned from menus at official receptions.

In a document issued jointly by the Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, the leaders also ordered lower-level officials not to stay in suites on business trips, among other guidelines on the use of public funds.

Local authorities should not go overboard when hosting visiting Party or higher-level government officials, the document said, urging public servants to maintain high standard of personal conduct and refrain from lavish spending. 

The renewed call for frugality comes as Xi has kept the anti-graft fight at the top of his policy agenda in a bid to gain public support for the Party and the government. Authorities are especially wary at this time of the year as the nation is heading into a festive season, with a new year round the corner.

Authorities have come up with detailed guidelines on officials’ spending on business trips, receptions, accommodation and transportation. Among other things, it was stipulated that officials on business tours should arrange their meals according to relevant expenditure standards. Local hosts are allowed to provide only one reception dinner, if needed.

Cigarettes and expensive liquor are not allowed to be served at official dinners and such receptions should not be held in private clubs or upscale places.

Conferences and related activities should not be organized at tourist attractions or commercial entertainment venues, the document said, adding that government funds should not be used to cover officials’ personal recreational visits.

Officials below provincial level should not stay in suites on business trips. Local hosts are banned from giving cash, negotiable securities, souvenirs or local products as gifts for visiting officials.

The rules forbid officials from gaining personal benefit from business trips and travel that is sponsored by public funds. All public event organizers should select the appropriate vehicles to transport visiting officials, while avoiding luxury limousines. Host entities should follow the public transport laws to ensure that there is no disruption to the common man.

Officials will not be allowed to have sight-seeing tours as part of business trips. The hosts should not arrange special cultural performances for the officials, or organize visits to entertainment venues.

China has punished almost 20,000 officials in the past year for breaching various rules aimed at cutting down on bureaucracy as well as pomp and ceremony, the government said last week.

More than 5,000 officials were found to have breached rules connected to the use of official cars, while 903 were found guilty of organizing overly elaborate celebratory events. 

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EJ Insight writer

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