Monday, February 18, 2013


              Less of this

and much less of this.

During the past “golden” week’s Lunar New Year holiday, the Chinese mainland greeted the Year of the Snake with as much hush as “hiss”. The recent campaign by the PRC’s new leadership under Xi Jinping to impose an anti-consumerism ethic on the public and tamp down rampant government corruption resulted in a more solemn, less extravagant observation of the week’s activities than recent years. Some of the more noteworthy events are the following:
-  Overall consumer spending for shopping and restaurants was up 15%, but that was a slower pace of growth than in the previous four years. The slowdown was particularly pronounced in the high-end restaurants, where government officials are typically entertained by those courting their favor;
- As this Jing Daily article discusses in more detail, the government imposed a ban on advertising of luxury products in TV, radio and billboards. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) issued a statement that such advertising “promotes incorrect values and helps create a bad social ethos.” While market analysts have taken serious note of the government’s nanny-like tone on this action, they also doubt how much affect this ban will have on actual sales, since print media and more importantly online media are still allowed to push the goodies into the hands of an ever-enamored public.
- Sales and prices of Moutai and other fiery baijiu alcohol fell on their face like drunken party animals during the celebration week. 70-80% of annual sales of the liquor traditionally takes place during the Lunar New Year and Autumn festivals. With soft sales volume and the bursting of a price bubble that had inflated on high end baijiu in previous years, prices dropped a staggering 33%, to approximately $250 per bottle. During the period since Xi has taken power in mid November, although the benchmark Shanghai Composite index has jumped 20 percent, shares in Shanghai-listed Kweichow Moutai Co., the maker of the white spirit, have dropped 17 percent.
- Even the extravagant fireworks display that normally paints Beijing’s night sky with color and smoke was also toned down. The government clearly felt that reducing the wheezing and coughing of citizens choking on the already notoriously bad air took priority over eliciting louder “oohs” and “aahs” from an adoring public.
How long these increased moral austerity measures will last is yet to be seen. Some analysts believe that there has been a real sea change in the resolve of the new government to be more accountable towards promoting social equality. Others simply see a new year and new faces at the top, but with the same agenda and no real desire to stop an opportunity to rein in waste from slithering away.

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