China’s new president, Xi Jinping, has made several appeals to the nation’s government officials that they take a step away from the luxury lifestyles that they've become accustomed to, and has warned that the official's lavish spending will be the downfall of the Communist Party.
As a result, public displays of extravagance have been reduced. Cutbacks on everything from floral arrangements, red carpets, car convoys, banquet meals at expensive restaurants and pricey bottles of liquor have all taken a hit from Xi’s new reforms.
But this doesn't mean officials are no longer indulging.
According to a report on Wednesday by the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, a new tactic of “secret sumptuousness” has taken over for the previously showy-displays of wealth.
“Instead of going out to high-end restaurants, [officials] are now eating in private clubs,” the report said.
“We constantly hear reports that officials are going to secret saunas disguised as farm houses, disguising their Maotai (an expensive brand of liquor) in mineral water bottles, and hiding Panda cigarettes (cigarettes that can cost more than $100) in Red Pagoda packets (a much cheaper brand).”
Xi has been extremely conscious of China’s growing wealth gap, which many people have been critical of, and rolled out anti-graft plans as a way to alleviate the perception of free-spending officials from exacerbating the problem.
As a result, many high-end brands are suffering. This past Spring Festival -- a typically busy time for luxury industries making money off gifts and celebratory meals -- sales and bookings were down.
“The fall in bookings follows moves announced by the central government last month to combat extravagance and corruption,” Xinhua reported in February.
And while this may sound promising, reports like the one made in the People’s Daily make it seem like exorbitant amounts of money are just being spent more privately. The commentary in the People’s Daily says that being an official has become too linked with a cushy, often corrupting, lifestyle, which ultimately needs to change.
“Is this deep-rooted habit of dining out on public funds so hard to change?’ the People’s Daily report asks.
“Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Xi told the Politburo that some Chinese officials are now ‘abusing power and becoming morally degenerate’ and that everybody should ‘look into a mirror, straighten their clothes, take a bath and cure their disease.’”