Regulators Seek to Rein in Overpriced Festive Treats

Campaign targets expensive mooncakes in an effort to cut waste, curb corruption

China has tightened regulations on the overpackaging and overpricing of festival delicacies, such as mooncakes and hairy crabs, ahead of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and while such steps can reduce waste and protect consumers, they can also limit opportunities for corruption, according to an anti-graft expert.

The State Administration for Market Regulation launched a two-month nationwide operation in mid-August targeting the overpackaging of commodities and the overpricing of mooncakes, which are a traditional treat for the Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Sept 10 this year.

During the two-month campaign, the State Administration for Market Regulation will provide administrative guidance for mooncake producers and step up training for law enforcement regarding excessive packaging.

It will increase spot checks on producers and retailers, pay special attention to luxury gifts produced by restaurants in the name of designing “cultural creative products” and toughen punishment for those that break the regulations, the administration said.

Regulators will also enhance the monitoring of online transactions and ensure that overpackaged goods are blacklisted from online retailing.

After years of management, the market order for mooncakes has been significantly improved, and its overall operation is standardized and orderly. Yet, there are still some enterprises charging extortionate prices, said Jin Xiandong, director of the policy research office of the National Development and Reform Commission.

The NDRC, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Market Regulation issued a notice in June saying that mooncakes should not be wrapped in precious metals, rosewood or other expensive materials, and should not be sold in boxes packed with other commodities.

Expensive ingredients such as edible bird’s nests are discouraged to be used as fillings, the notice said, adding that a cost survey will be carried out if necessary on any boxed set priced at over 500 yuan ($74).

Market regulation departments will also carry out inspections on enterprises, hotels, restaurants and e-commerce platforms that produce or sell mooncakes, and will strictly punish related violations, the notice said.

Jin said the main purpose of the notice is to take mooncakes as a starting point, adding that the NDRC advocates thrift, opposes waste and promotes that mooncakes and other festival food should return to being simple public consumer goods.

Zhuang Deshui, deputy director of the Clean Government Research Center at Peking University, said that since the 18th CPC National Congress, the supervisory authorities have taken measures against the sending and receiving of gifts or gift cards, including luxury packaged mooncakes.

As a result, mooncakes costing thousands of yuan per box have rarely been seen in the market in recent years, and the current mooncakes are generally acceptable to ordinary citizens, he said.

“Mooncakes may not be worth much on their own, but they can be if they are packaged with valuable accessories and sold as gifts,” he said.

Based on a cost survey and data from industry organizations and e-commerce platforms, the average production cost of mooncakes is about 70 yuan per box. The sales of boxed mooncakes priced at less than 200 yuan per box account for more than 80 percent of the market, according to the NDRC.

Zhuang said that the four forms of undesirable work styles-formalities for formalities’ sake, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance-are often behind expensive gifts.

“From the perspective of the current anti-corruption situation, the four undesirable styles issue and the corruption issue are often intertwined with each other. A lot of corrupt behavior is caused by such undesirable work styles, especially by sending lavish gifts,” he said.

Social effect

An article published on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection and the National Supervisory Commission, China’s top anti-graft bodies, also called on the authorities to be on high alert to the possible corruption problems behind high-priced mooncakes.

Some people buy what they call “mooncake coupons” and other electronic gift cards on e-commerce platforms to give as gifts under the guise of them being mooncakes.

Zhuang said that the high-priced mooncakes can be given as gifts among corrupt officials and those wanting their influence.

The strict regulation on overpriced mooncakes can create a better social environment and foundation for improving the Party’s work style and building a clean government, he said.

“I don’t consider the rectification of expensive mooncakes as a small matter, as it is a tactic to combat corruption, which is to promote the strict governance of the Party,” he said. (Source:

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