Gold Mooncakes Smell of Corruption

As the Mid-Autumn Festival coincides with a backlash against conspicuous luxury goods, Xinhua’s Hu Tao and Yuan Ruting note a whiff of corruption emanating from gift sets of solid gold mooncakes:

One of the most favored gift box consists of two pieces, which weigh 50 grams each. The price is 42,900 yuan (6,821 U.S. dollars), equalling to 429 yuan per gram. The price of standard metal bars is around 360 yuan.

[…] In some stores, gold and silver mooncake giftboxes sold out on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays running from Sept. 30-Oct. 7.

[…] The country has historically attached great importance to personal relations, but high-valued gold mooncakes are out of the reach of many people, said Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist.

[…] To eliminate corruption, the government must be strict in law enforcement, and strike the high-valued gift market, said Xia.

Another set of mooncakes recently drew attention for the virulently anti-Japanese slogans with which they were decorated. As Victor Mair wrote at Language Log, these included “the strange incitement to ‘Bite Little Japan to Death!’ [which] may have been inspired by the morbid thought that, with each bite of a mooncake, patriotic Chinese should imagine that they are biting ‘Little Japan(ese)’.”

On Thursday, Tania Branigan explained the mooncake tradition at The Guardian, including measures already taken against excessively lavish gift sets:

“It’s just like how Americans eat turkey. Nobody knows why we eat them, we just do,” said 25-year-old Tang Cong, who works for an internet company in Beijing.

[…] They have even appeared in non-edible form. Gold shops sell solid discs styled to resemble the pastries. Last autumn, the makers of Angry Birds produced a special edition of the game with golden mooncake slices instead of eggs.

[…] Soaring prices have prompted authorities to step in and curb the excesses of the mooncake trade in recent years. Regulations now outlaw unnecessarily lavish packaging and the inclusion of expensive bonus gifts, such as high-priced alcohol, in the boxes.

“It was partly because of corruption, but also it was just a waste of resources,” said an official at the Beijing Association of Roasted Foods and Sweets.

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