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China Focus: Fewer new year firecrackers and gifts expected

English.news.cn   2014-01-29 16:55:02

BEIJING, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming Chinese New Year is set to be less noisy and consumerist than usual as concern over air pollution has combined with authorities' ongoing frugality and anti-corruption drive to depress sales of fireworks and luxury gifts.

The Beijing Meteorological Bureau said on Tuesday that the smog shrouding the capital will linger during the first five days of the holiday, which begins on Jan. 31. Meteorologists have advised citizens to refrain from setting off firecrackers and called for a temporary ban if air conditions spike to dangerous levels.

The Beijing municipal government also said it would suspend sales of firecrackers to citizens and impose a day-long ban on fireworks if air pollution reaches the worst levels on charts.

Static air flow will also likely lead to hazy weather in parts of central and eastern China during the holiday, said Chen Zhenlin, a meteorologist with the China Meteorological Administration during a press conference in Beijing.

In Shanghai, poll results published on Tuesday showed that more than 85 percent of respondents in the city will not buy firecrackers during the Chinese New Year, while 81 percent would like the government to ban firecrackers year around.

"Sales will definitely be bad during the new year holiday," said a firecracker retailer from Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang Province. "People simply don't want to make this bad weather worse."

Besides the business of fireworks, the country's anti-extravagance drive has meant a dwindling market for luxury goods, a category that usually sees strong sales in the holiday season.

Since the launch of the frugality campaign by the Communist Party of China's leadership in late 2012, a slew of concrete measures have been issued to uproot bureaucratic and extravagant work styles among government workers, such as bans on flower arrangements in meeting rooms, expensive liquor, delicacies such as shark fins and bird nests, as well as luxury gifts during festivals.

Businessmen in Lhasa's caterpillar fungus market have been experiencing a hard time in this new year season, as demand has nose-dived.

The value of caterpillar fungus, a rare Chinese herbal medicine that grows only on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, has been equated with that of gold. It is often bought as an expensive gift for government officials.

"No one dares to receive such precious gifts any more," said Dou Qinlian, a manager at a shopping mall in Lhasa. "There has been a sharp drop in the number of people buying the medicine as a gift both in Tibet and elsewhere in China."

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Editor: Zhu Ningzhu
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