The politics behind China’s banned banquets

The politics behind China’s banned banquets

Staff Reporter


Extravagant banquets may now be frowned upon by China’s ruling Communist Party, but they were once considered one of the most important tools for climbing the political ladder in China, reports Duowei News, an outlet run by overseas Chinese.

To rehabilitate the image of party officials who have come to be associated with lives of excess and extravagant gatherings, Chinese president and Communist Party chief Xi Jinping has made a concerted effort to dissuade cadres from attending banquets since the 18th National Congress in November 2012, when he took the reins of the party.

In the past, however, details of these luncheons and dinner parties often became major talking points in political circles as they tended to reveal allegiances and enmities, not to mention potentially questionable business dealings. An official dining at the private residence of a local businessman, in particular, would have been regarded as a red flag for anti-graft authorities.

Former Anhui provincial deputy governor Ni Fake, for example, was often seen dining with businessman Ji Lichang, who later contributed to Ni’s downfall for bribery. Former Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, currently serving 15 years in prison for corruption and attempted defection, was also famous for hosting lavish dinner parties, and even patented a special turning mechanism to make it easier for guests to reach the food at large tables.

In 2005, a couple of new chiefs of a village in Guangzhou, the capital of southern China’s Guangdong province, made headlines by throwing a 10-day feast for 9,000 villagers. Despite the best of intentions, many villagers did not appreciate the gesture, with some saying that inviting so many people displayed a lack of understanding of what it takes to please people.

According to Duowei, there are many rules and etiquette associated with official banquets. For instance, an official’s appetite is said to reflect his political ambitions, while an ability to drink copious amounts of alcohol is said to reflect approachability. Even the seating arrangements will reflect the closeness of people’s relationships with the party’s host, while everything from the tablecloth to the shape of the table could reveal something about the host and the attendees.

The news outlet also outlined the “four importants” of an official banquet. First of all, it’s not who invited you, it’s who else has been invited that’s important. Secondly, it’s not who orders the dishes, it’s who you are sitting next to that’s important. Thirdly, it’s not what you eat, it’s what you say that’s important. And lastly, it’s not where you eat, it’s the final outcome that’s important.

The website of a Hengyang city reception venue in south-central China’s Hunan province says that tables at a banquet should not be more than 1.5 meters apart, while the host’s main table should not be more than 2 m from the tables of his nearest guests. No table should be closer than 1.2 m to the wall.

Wang Qishan, a member of China’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, has reportedly stopped attending official banquets since being named chief of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China’s top anti-graft watchdog. Instead, he is said to be only inviting old friends to his house for home-made meals so that he can observe party rules without losing touch with people.

Xi Jinping has told party cadres that unless required for work purposes, officials should avoid banquets and go home for meals whenever possible. However, Duowei says that despite the image of officials loving extravagant banquets, many of them were already tired of always eating out and would actually prefer to eat at home.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: