President Xi’s Anti-corruption Measures: No Mooncakes, No Crabs, & No 20 Course Dinners

The data driving Asia

Among President Xi Jinping’s new initiatives is a crackdown on corruption in the Chinese government aimed at catching the “tigers and flies,” the high-ranking bureaucrats and low-ranking township officials alike. Endemic corruption remains a consistent problem for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and has led not only to social dissatisfaction among the domestic populace, but also to criticism from the international community.

Xi’s anti-graft measures seek to increase transparency surrounding government spending, appease public complaints about the use and appropriation of funds, and ensure the continued survival and legitimacy of the Party. His austerity measures began at the end of 2012 and have led to regulations that severely cut down on lavish and excessive transportation, dining, and project-related expenses. The necessity of stronger anti-corruption mechanisms and structures has also been re-emphasized post Third Plenum. We examine the progress made by Xi’s anti-corruption measures by the numbers.


China’s score on Transparency International’s scale of 0-100, with 0 indicating a highly corrupt system and 100 indicating a highly clean and transparent system. A score of 39 points indicates a serious corruption problem, and resulted in China’s rank of 80 out of 176 countries in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.


The number of courses, not including soup, that Chinese government officials are now restricted to having during a reception. Usual receptions are lavish banquets upwards of 10 courses. The decrease in courses has also had an economic impact on the sales of delicacies usually served such as “hairy crabs,” as government consumption of these crabs made up almost half the sales.

Mooncake display. Source: DCmaster's flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

Mid-Autumn Festival mooncake promotional display in China. Exchange of luxury mooncakes among CCP officials has come to symbolize Party corruption. Source: dcmaster’s flickr photostream, used under a creative commons license.

160,000 RMB

The cost in yuan of a box of gold or silver encrusted luxury mooncakes, usually given to and among government officials during mid-Autumn Festival. Other luxury mooncakes contain non-traditional fillings such as sharkfin, bird’s nest and abalone or include gifts of cash, liquor, and jewelry hidden in the packaging. Xi’s measures forbid using public funds to purchase mooncakes, dampening demand in the luxury mooncake market, and also impacting the transaction process that occurred among redistributors, government officials, businesses and other individuals using mooncake coupons in lieu of cash.


The number of officials who have been punished for failing to cut back on lavish public spending amid Communist Party anti-corruption legislation. According to the CCP Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the violations included excessive spending on receptions and wedding banquets, use of government vehicles for personal purposes, and unnecessary spending of public funds for domestic and international trips.

20,000,000 RMB

The amount of bribes in yuan (roughly $3.2 million) that former Politburo member Bo Xilai was accused of receiving. His trial was unprecedented for being a public spectacle, showcasing the CCP’s interest in using him as an example to demonstrate their commitment to anti-corruption measures. Bo was sentenced to life in prison.


The number of investigations that have been opened up by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) as of August 2013. This figure represents a 4 percent increase in investigations compared to last August.  However, Reuters analysis predicts that the total number of probes for 2013 will be roughly the same as previous years, suggesting that numerically, Xi’s anti-graft campaign is no different than previous crackdowns.


The number of microblogs that the Chinese government has opened to foster increased netizen participation in anti-corruption efforts. The government’s disciplinary committees are using these blogs to channel public concerns in an orderly manner so they can better respond to their comments and concerns.


The number of items included in a document passed after the conclusion of the Third Plenum that regulates the proper use and management of funds for official uses, including receptions, travel, and buildings. This measure is the latest step in the CCP’s anti-corruption and anti-waste campaign and demonstrates that Xi’s public statements lambasting shows of extravagance and misappropriation of funds are not mere rhetoric. Anti-corruption will continue to be a focal point of reform for the CCP as they move forward.


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