Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A shopper passes a Louis Vuitton store in Beijing.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

China has banned television advertisements touting expensive watches, gold coins and other luxury items as "gifts for leaders" because of concerns that they will undermine public faith in government.

China has been hit by a wave of corruption scandals in recent months, with a series of officials exposed for owning vast numbers of homes and luxury watches among other trappings of illicit wealth.

Xi Jinping, who will become president in March, has launched a campaign to clean up the system, vowing to target the "tigers and flies" - both the high- and low-ranking officials - who have benefited from graft. Amid growing public anger over inequality, Mr. Xi has warned that corruption could "lead to the ruin" of the ruling Communist party and the Chinese nation.

Story continues below advertisement

The new advertising rules issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, a censor-cum-regulator, are the latest in Mr. Xi's austerity drive. He has ordered civil servants to spend less on banquets, the military has barred soldiers from drinking liquor at official meals, and state-owned companies dramatically scaled back the parties they threw ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, which begins next week.

SARFT, which regularly bans television shows seen as too racy or politically subversive, said broadcasters had a responsibility to support Mr. Xi's efforts to stamp out ostentatious displays of power and privilege.

"Some television and radio stations have broadcast advertisements with 'gift giving' slogans such as 'premium gift choice', 'a gift for leaders' and 'giving honour to your superiors', and the ads have been for a wide range of products including famous watches, rare stamps and commemorative gold and silver coins," it said in a statement published on its website on Wednesday.

"These ads transmit an incorrect value system and can easily foster a harmful social atmosphere," it added.

The regulator ordered broadcasters to stop such ads from reaching the nation's airwaves.

It was not clear how strictly it would enforce the new rules - whether it would take a literal interpretation, only barring ads that use the forbidden phrases, or whether it would take aim at any ad that carries the insinuation of gift giving.

"As a cosmetic exercise, it's all about pleasing a group of people who are never going to get given a gift," said Paul French, chief China market strategist at Mintel. "The trouble with this advertising is that lots and lots of people who are never going to be able to afford one of those watches get to see it."

Story continues below advertisement

The steady drumbeat of anti-corruption messages from Beijing has already had a chilling effect on the market for luxury products, from jewellery to high-end liquor, in recent months. However, some analysts believe the dip in sales might prove shortlived, as has happened when previous campaigns against graft have ended.

Gift giving is seen as an integral part of building successful work relationships in China, and it can be a practised art. China Central Television, the main state-run broadcaster, has devoted entire business programs to guiding people through the complex process of figuring out what are appropriate gifts to give bosses.

Scores of websites also provide a similar service. One site, lingdao.liyi99.com, offers tailored selections of jade, gold, tea and ceramics depending on whether one is buying a gift for a male leader or a female leader, and whether the occasion is a holiday, a promotion or a wedding.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies