What’s Behind China’s “Clean Plate Campaign”?

Following Xi Jinping’s call to put an end to food waste, the state media are making food conservation a national campaign. From Ning Hui at Tea Leaf Nation:

On January 29, Xi’s comment went public on China Central Television’s widely-watched evening news broadcast, xinwen lianbo. Next day, People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the CCCPC, devoted half its front page and six articles responding to Xi’s call. The headlines ranged from “Opposing Waste Is a Political Mission” and “‘Tongue Tip’ Regulation Requires All Stakeholders’ Cooperation” to “Restaurants Should Offer Half-Entrees” and  ”The High Season For High-End Liquor Is Over.”

[…] The rest of China’s mainstream media quickly fell into line. In an article titled “Opposing Waste Is a Profound and Far-Reaching Social Reform,” Global Times opined, “Chinese people’s wastefulness isn’t only shown in banquets, [but also] the desire for big houses and good cars that’s learned from Americans — these are all signals of a culture of waste.”

[…] But in a highly-charged political atmosphere such as China, even discussion of universal values can lead to unexpected places. Unlike Global Times, which tends to follow the Communist Party line, other news outlets followed instructions to report on the “Clear the Plate” but did so with a twist: they lauded the campaign, but also took the opportunity to critique and investigate the corruption underlying it.

For example, Sina.com pointed out that abuse of public funds is a main cause of food waste. China Youth Daily recommended rewarding those who blow the whistle on abuse of public funds. Journalists from Beijing News reviewed annual meeting banquets among different provinces’ resident offices in Beijing, finding that a “standard dinner table cost RMB8,000 [about US$1,285]“. The known outspoken miroblog account of People’s Daily Online commented, “Power won’t limit itself; only reliable regulations and oversight can put power into a cage.”

See also Fines for Food Waste and the “Clean Plate Campaign”, via CDT


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