China Ministries Rein in Gala Events as Xi Presses Frugality Bid

Chinese authorities ordered officials to limit spending on galas, the song-and-dance shows popular with television viewers, saying the spectacles had triggered complaints from the public.

Departments may not spend government funds on commercial galas or invite “high-cost entertainers,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday, citing a notice from five ministries and departments. “Funds from state-owned enterprises should not be used to give a boost to stars.”

The ban imposes new limits on party cadres who have been targeted in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to curb corruption and promote frugality. Previous edicts have outlawed officials from spending state cash on high-end liquor, banquets and ostentatious floral arrangements.

The Xinhua story was reprinted on the front page of the People’s Daily newspaper today, signaling the importance given to the order. Xi’s campaign has urged cadres to become closer to China’s people.

Extravagant galas are “neither a sign of flourishing culture, nor do they help promote domestic consumption, even less is it the cultural life that the masses want,” a front-page commentary in the People’s Daily said. “We should know that China still has 128 million people living below the poverty line, and per capita gross domestic product is at the bottom of the ranking in the world.”

China’s Spring Festival gala, aired every year on China Central Television, has featured guests including Celine Dion and South Korean pop star Psy. The 2012 gala had a viewership of 770 million people, according to Xinhua.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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