David flew in from Hong Kong this morning and gave me a moon cake before he staggered off to bed for a few hours. Pretty and very traditional in China at this time of year but who knew they could be so controversial -
Mooncake Economy Is Hit in China’s Corruption Crackdown
By Dexter Roberts September 05, 2014
As Chinese get ready to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival this coming Monday, one part of the tradition is conspicuously absent. Families and friends will still gather to enjoy the full moon, but the long-established custom of giving mooncakes has been seriously curtailed.
Amid Chinese President Xi Jinping’s nationwide anticorruption campaign, official gift-giving is frowned on, and mooncakes—often used as a disguised form of bribery—have been singled out for the second year running. In August, China’s antigraft authority announced a ban on using public funds to purchase the round treats; the agency has even has created a website for the public to report mooncake-related abuses.
“Most will exchange delicious mooncakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival with the purest of intentions. However, the holiday also provides an opportunity for individuals with less admirable intentions to corruptly curry favor with influential political and business contacts through extravagant and valuable gifts,” wrote attorney Chris Priddy, of Seattle boutique firm Harris Moure, on Sept. 3 on the China Law Blog. He cited the use of expensive containers, as well as mooncakes made from precious stones or even stuffed with cash, on the China legal news site started by Harris Moure lawyers in 2006.
The mooncake industry is already hurting. Wuchuan, Guangdong, dubbed Mooncake Capital, is home to more than 200 companies employing more than 20,000 people. Last year it sold more than 1.5 billion yuan ($244 million) worth the seasonal delicacy, “but mooncakes have become unsalable this year,” Zheng Rikang, director of the Wuchuan Association of Mooncakes, told the China Daily.
Roberts is Bloomberg Businessweek’s Asia News Editor and China bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @dtiffroberts.