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Anti-corruption cools down gift-giving market

Updated: 2013-09-17 17:17
( Xinhua)

HEFEI -- Beijing cab driver Shi Baoyi was amazed when he took a passenger to Maliandao, one of the largest tea markets in Beijing.

The street was cheerless and quiet, quite unlike the usual bustling scenes before the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Located at Xicheng district, Maliandao is known as the "first tea street" with hundreds of shops from different provinces and regions, trading in tea, tea paraphernalia and spreading the culture of tea.

The street is always busy and people swarm along it when holidays approach, such as Spring Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival. This year however, the shops are not showing any sign of the encroaching Mid-Autumn Festival -- also known as the Mooncake Festival -- which falls on Thursday this year.

In the market, there are even fewer customers than in the shops, and most salesmen and their bosses are spending their time staring at their cells phones, or drinking tea alone.

"We used to work overtime every day to weigh, pack and deliver tea before the festival, but this year, the business has never been worse," said Ye Zhen, a shop owner who sells Fujian tea, adding that high-end tea is hardly being sold at all.

He Jingqian, who sells Anhui tea in Maliandao, said his business is also not so good this year. He used to make huge profits from big orders in the holidays, but many of his best customers have slashed their budget for tea this year, so he has had to change his target market and begun to sell tea to the bosses of businesses, instead of public institutions or government related units.

Chinese people put a high value on social relationships and contact. Holidays have always been considered the proper time to nurture these relationships and bond with old and new friends, as well as cozying up the leaders of government bodies, which boosted the gift-giving market.

This year, disciplinary departments have been urged to tighten supervision and enforcement of discipline to reduce corruption. Behavior such as the use of public funds to buy gifts, hold banquets and pay for holidays, as well as extravagance and waste, have been strictly banned since last year.

Along with the tea market, high-end wine and mooncake markets have also been hit by anticorruption activities nationwide.

Chen Jinshui, a liquor wholesaler in east China's Jiangsu province said his dream of making a fortune crumbled when he failed to sell the high-end liquor that he had stored for a long time and prepared to sell for a good price during the Spring Festival.

Chen then gave up this business, because many others in the same trade could not see a booming market at the Mooncake Festival.

As Chinese people prepare for the forthcoming festival of family reunions, they might feel that something in the domestic Mid-Autumn Festival market is changing.

In supermarkets in east China's Anhui Province, a box of mooncakes costing at around 100 yuan ($16) is the bestseller this year.

"Compared with mooncakes priced at nearly 1,000 yuan last year, the price are more accessible, so the supermarket can sell more," said Zhen Fei, a staff member at a gift giving company in Hefei, capital of Anhui, adding that far fewer high-priced mooncakes are being sold than last year.

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