China’s richest people have sharply cut gift-giving in the past year, as Beijing seeks to quash government officials’ lavish lifestyles underwritten by business largesse.
The Hurun Report, chronicle of all things wealthy in China, said in its 2014 Luxury Consumers Survey that 25 per cent fewer people plan to give a gift over Rmb5,000 ($825) at Chinese New Year, in two weeks’ time, than last year.
Overall, their average luxury spending fell 15 per cent, from Rmb1.77m last year to Rmb1.5m this year, “possibly due to the impact of anti-corruption initiatives and a slowdown in the economy”, Hurun said.
The Hurun Report surveyed 393 mainland Chinese with personal wealth of Rmb10m or more.
President Xi Jinping has made it a priority to crack down on government ostentation and corruption, which has created an atmosphere where many businesspeople do not dare give flashy gifts to curry favour with government officials – and the officials do not dare accept them.
“Chinese officials are looking for more discreet gifts, something that can be consumed in the home, like medicine, or a massage chair,” says Shaun Rein, of China Market Research in Shanghai.
“People are telling us, they used to give an expensive gift because they expected something in return, but now the officials are in lockdown so they give something less valuable just to maintain the relationship.”
In the first 11 months of last year, for example, Chinese imports of Swiss watches fell 15 per cent year on year, largely because of the crackdown on giving gifts.
Hurun found that the rich were also not such fans of collecting watches for their own use any more either: this had been overtaken, for the first time in five years, by collecting traditional Chinese ink paintings.
The report said Chinese millionaires’ confidence in the local economy had risen for the first time in five years, with three out of 10 feeling “extremely confident” in its prospects – but that apparently is not stopping them from wanting to leave China altogether.
“The number of wealthy individuals who have emigrated, or are planning to do so, rose from 60 to 64 per cent”, but only 15 per cent want to give up Chinese nationality to move. Most seem to want to have it both ways, by acquiring permanent residency overseas – the US is the most popular destination – while maintaining ties to China, Hurun says.
Those who want to send their children overseas for pre-university education prefer the UK, Hurun noted, while the US was still preferred for undergraduate study.
And China’s rich are healthier now, too – or at least they say they are: 61 per cent say they do not smoke and 40 per cent say they are teetotal (up 12 percentage points from last year). 15% Fall in average luxury spending among wealthy Rmb1.5m Average spending among rich Chinese this year.
对中国所有财富方面的事物进行详细统计的胡润百富(Hurun Report)在其《2014年奢侈品消费者调查》(2014 Luxury Consumers Survey)中表示，计划在两周后的春节赠送5000元人民币（合825美元）以上礼品的人比去年少了25%。
总部驻上海的中国市场研究集团(China Market Research)的雷小山(Shaun Rein)表示：“中国官员正在寻求更低调的礼物，可以在家中消费的东西，比如医药或按摩椅。”