No Mooncake for You!
It’s Mid-Autumn Festival once again, and as I posted last year, mooncakes are the traditional way to celebrate. But this year, the cakes are at the center of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption efforts. Only days before the national holiday, China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection has now banned the use of public money to buy mooncakes. While one might expect quelling excess and bribery would be universally accepted, the ban has had perhaps unintended effects on the Chinese retail market. Mooncake retailers, particularly high-end hotels, are suffering this holiday season. While at first glance the downturn in gift giving might seem unfortunate, I had to remind myself that the ban only affects the purchase of mooncakes with public funds, objectively problematic for both the Chinese people and their economy. Reports indicate that mooncake giving to officials has also declined this year due to the officials hesitance to appear to be engaged in bribery; but again, this decrease in “generosity” is also decreasing the opportunities for bribery and is, in the long run, better than allowing graft to continue. Of course, mooncake giving amongst family and friends should persist–1,300 year old traditions don’t fade quickly.
Western media uncharacteristically covered the political decision and the history of the mooncake in some detail: check out CBS for an overview of mooncake frivolity, including gold and silk varieties housed in lacquer boxes; the Wall Street Journal for background on Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign; and Reuters for the effect of the ban on the mooncake business.
What do you think about the ban? Is it a good idea to stop bribery or does it spoil the holiday fun?