Low Key Extravagance: Chinese Officials Find New Ways to Keep Up Expensive Tastes

Low Key Extravagance: Chinese Officials Find New Ways to Keep Up Expensive Tastes
May 08, 2013 Translated by eChinacities.com

Editor’s note: this article was translated and edited from Ifeng.com, and looks at the methods some officials in Shenyang are using to evade China’s strict new anti-corruption measures recently imposed by Xi Jinping. Xi’s “Eight Point Regulation” urges all officials to refrain from all forms of extravagance, and has lead to the implementation of stricter regulations at upscale hotels and restaurants. In light of this, many Chinese officials have turned to more low-key methods to discreetly continue indulging in such extravagance.

In lieu of his recent declaration of war against corruption, Xi Jinping introduced the new “Eight Point Regulation” back in December 2012, which effectively demands officials to shun all forms of extravagance. Due to this, many classy establishments across the country have seen less business and commercial interest. The spending of public funds in high-end restaurants in Shenyang has been considerably cut down in recent weeks, and Liaoning provincial statistics also indicating that that general business turnover in such eateries has been experiencing a downward trend. After driving around the area for several days, a reporter in Shenyang noticed that compared to the period before the last Chinese New Year, there were fewer cars with white number plates – those belonging to officials – parked outside these high-end hotels. This seems to suggest that Xi’s “Eight Point Regulation” have in fact had a positive effect, prompting officials to be incredibly wary and low-key regarding the use of public funds for banquets.

Low-key yet high-end restaurants the new trend

However the reporter also found that the business at some of the more secretive establishments—which were even more extravagant than former restaurant and clubbing hotspots—were thriving, with some officials now spending public funds at these places instead. The reporter also noted that the officials visiting these establishments were very cautious in their methods of arrival and departure, such as telling their drivers to leave the area until they were ready to be picked up.

At 18:00 on April 10, the reporter, after receiving a tip from a source, went to a small restaurant opposite the Shenyang Daily’s advertising department on Beisanjing Jie. The restaurant is nicknamed “1967”. Surrounding the shop is a seller of Northeast China speciality products as well as a few normal outlets and grocery stores. “1967” is a two-storey villa, and features luxurious interior design as well as six private rooms, all of which were full at the time. The front of the building wasn’t big, though the prices of the food were certainly astonishing—each item on the menu cost 400-600 RMB.

“This French goose dish is very popular,” explained one waitress. The reporter saw that the price of the dish stood at a hefty 1,088 RMB per person. In fact, there were many items on the menu that were over 1,000 RMB, many of which were delicacies, while the price of an ordinary vegetable dish was around 100 RMB. The waitress explained, “The dishes may be extravagant, but we’re also pretty low-key here. We have six private luxury rooms that are currently full, so if you want to dine in one of those you’d better book in advance.” For officials worrying about the prices of “1967”, the staff will happily arrange an invoice, otherwise known as a “fapiao”( 发票). “Not only do we offer invoices for customers dining, we can also provide that service for those holding conferences too.”

Service and food just as fancy as five star hotels

Sources stated that establishments such as “1967” were not easy to find, though despite this and the incredibly steep prices, they were still well known as “private conference centers” and did good business. Apparently, at least ten similar restaurants exist in Shenyang. Such places are often hidden among normal residential areas as well as office and villa districts.  

“Many well-known upscale hotels and restaurants are now being subject to stricter regulations from the authorities. This now means that public funds are instead being spent elsewhere at certain little-known restaurants and conference centers,” said one person familiar with such establishments.

Although these places may not appear as fancy as upscale hotels, the food and service levels are still equally high. Guests can indulge in delicacies such as lobsters, sea cucumbers, Maotai (a high-end Chinese spirit,) expensive wines, as well as enjoy entertainment such as performances by famous pianists and female singers. It is also understood that these places also employ specially trained chefs and waitress staff.  Chefs are often hired from high-end hotels or restaurants and the waitresses are young women who work part-time.

Picking up and dropping off method employed by officials

At 12:00 on April 8, the reporter spotted two Audi cars parked outside the Roman Palace Hotel on Shenyang’s Qingnian Dajie. The number plates of the cars were (辽) A60000 and (辽) A08122 respectively. The reporter found out that the A60000 Audi was registered to the Shenyang Dongling District Government Office, and that the other car belonged to the CPI Northeast Power Company. At 12:30, the reporter arrived at the Shunfeng Hotel on Wu’ai Jie, and saw that a Chevrolet and a Santana 2000 with the numbers (辽) AA00476 and (辽) AA7907 were parked outside. After doing a bit of research, the reporter discovered that they belonged to the City Construction Administration Bureau and the City Construction Park Bureau respectively.

At various other spots where upmarket restaurants or hotels were known to be located, the reporter didn’t always find officials’ cars parked outside, though noticed that several Jeeps and Audis with non-official number plates, would often pull over and then immediately drive away once passengers had been dropped off. “Since the current restrictions regarding the use of public funds by government officials at high-end restaurants are tight, many officials are using the ‘picking up and dropping off’ method,” explained one source. The average spending per head at these types of low-key yet high-end establishments is said to be above 500 RMB.

Source: Ifeng News
 

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Keywords: anti-corruption measures Chinese officials Eight Point Regulation

4 Comments

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1

13david
comment|37163|228230

Are you kidding? Corruption is everywhere in China.

May 09, 2013 14:40 Report Abuse

2

woody
comment|37119|57655

Looks like the only way is to catch them there. Surely a simple audit of their spending of public money could identify the problem reguardless of where they spent the cash. Do the government departments have auditors in China?

May 08, 2013 16:17 Report Abuse

3

13david
comment|37108|228230

Which all goes to prove that the "communist government", still feels , with justification, that it is still very easy to keep the populace in the dark and feed them bullshit.

May 08, 2013 08:09 Report Abuse

4

dyanisis
comment|37107|52015

if this reporter can find these places with relevant ease, why not shop them to the gaffer

May 08, 2013 07:52 Report Abuse