The gifts are essentially bribes or kickbacks, and they are prohibited under Chinese law. But in China, legal experts say, bribery laws are selectively enforced, and party members in good standing are rarely investigated.
As a result, the practice of bribing government officials — by other government officials and, more commonly, by private businessmen — is so widespread that luxury goods producers have come to count on it as an increasingly important revenue source.
China is now the world’s fastest-growing luxury market, with an estimated $7.6 billion in sales last year, according to Bain & Company, a global consulting firm. And industry experts say gifts to government officials make up close to 50 percent of the country’s luxury sales.