Communist officials sidestep Xi’s anti-corruption efforts

Newspaper reports how luxury spending by insiders has been driven underground

The People's Daily newspaper in China has claimed that some officials are using underhand methods to get around Chinese president Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive.

These include visiting karaoke bars secreted in farmhouses and hiding expensive, fiery “mao tai” liquor in mineral water bottles.

“In some places the use of public money for eating and drinking has switched from high-end hotels to private venues and places of business . . . known as ‘low-key luxury’,” said the newspaper, the official voice of China’s ruling Communist Party. “These ways of pulling the wool over people’s eyes are typical of not following instructions and not stopping what is banned.”

Mr Xi has made combating corruption the cornerstone of his early days in office. Widespread corruption among party cadres has proven politically unsettling, especially with a wealth gap growing between rich and poor.

Luxury goods hit
The crackdown has hit the luxury goods market . Watchmakers are complaining of a major drop in sales because cadres are no longer allowed to accept a Rolex as a thank you for doing a favour. Many high-end restaurants are suffering from the new climate of austerity, as officials are forced to rein in their epicurean habits.

There has been little apparent progress in efforts to get officials to publicly disclose their assets, and the party has not indicated if it plans to set up a fully independent judicial body to tackle corruption.

A big focus of the crackdown has been the army. Chinese army chiefs have been ordered to put a lid on the mao tai, a traditional feature of the lavish banquets that characterise business dealings in China. This follows a succession of corruption scandals linked to the banquet-based business model.

Soldiers have been told to clamp down on conspicuous consumption as part of a campaign called the “10 regulations on work style”, which has been ordered by the central military commission.

This has seen the introduction of a ban on the use of military number plates on Porsches and other luxury cars.

People have taken to enforcing this ban with gusto. When a new SUV was spotted on the street yesterday, its owner’s licence plate was immediately named and shamed online. In his defence, the owner insisted the number plate had been installed before the ban.

Separately, the discipline committee in Liaoning province has announced a new regulation awarding up to 200,000 yuan (€25,000) to anyone informing on officials violating the law.