With the Mid-Autumn Festival just days away, giving moon cakes to family, friends and employees is in full swing, with some using the tradition as a tool to bribe government officials.
The China Economics Weekly magazine quoted a bank manager Tuesday as saying that his branch provides moon cakes made of gold and silver and can also adjust a receipt making it difficult to trace and easier to claim as a legitimate expense.
"As many visitors are willing to splurge on gifts for the festival, I'd say our gold and silver moon cakes are selling extremely well, and our branch is close to many government agencies," the bank manager told the China Economics Weekly.
A bank manager surnamed Zhao in Beijing from the China Merchants Bank told the Global Times that gold and silver moon cakes are popular as gifts and customers must pre-order at least two weeks in advance.
"As the tussle with Japan on the Diaoyu Islands intensified, the price of gold surges and more people start to appreciate the value of gold," said Zhao, adding that all their specially-made moon cake gift sets were already sold out.
Zhao told the Global Times that the gifts are "usually not for families or friends."
Other banks, including the Bank of Communications and the Agricultural Bank of China, also sell gold and silver moon cakes as gifts and souvenirs. Most gift sets are priced between 2,000 yuan ($317) and 10,000 yuan, said Zhao.
One of the most expensive sets of gold moon cakes is a limited edition worth 47,620 yuan from Kingee Gold. All but one set in a limited run of 2,000 has been sold in Beijing as of Monday, according to the China Economic Weekly. Kingee Gold could not be reached for comment.
"The existence of this industry devoted to 'gift-giving' shows how serious the corruption problem is and how common it has become nowadays," Lin Zhe, a professor specializing in anti-corruption at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"Business people are meeting a demand because corruption has infiltrated to middle-level or even the grass-roots officials," added Lin.
Some of the moon cakes are embossed with blooming peony flowers, a symbol of wealth and power in traditional Chinese culture, others are topped with an engraving of a panda or chrysanthemum.
Wang Xiaoyu, a professor of cultural criticism from the Shanghai-based Tongji University, told the Global Times that the extravagant gifts have nothing to do with Chinese tradition. "It's all about corruption," he said.
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