Gift Ceramics Market Cracks amid Anti-corruption Campaign
   2013-10-20 16:51:01    Xinhua      Web Editor: Liu Ranran

China's celebrated "Chairman Mao" Porcelain is being snubbed for the first time by domestic officials following a nationwide anti-corruption campaign, business delegates at an ongoing ceramics fair say.

Replicas of such porcelain, a tailor-made ceramic once crafted for former Chinese President Mao Zedong, are a form of tribute usually priced at 10,000 yuan (about 1,640 U.S.dollars) per piece. However, their sales have witnessed dramatic declines in the gift market this year, said Huang Kai, deputy manager of Hongxinge Porcelain Co. Ltd.

"The nationwide frugality campaign and the central government's stricter control over expenses for official receptions have chilled the gift market," Huang told Xinhua on the sidelines of the Jingdezhen International Ceramics Fair, which will close on Tuesday in Jingdezhen, a Chinese porcelain base in central Jiangxi Province.

With Hongxinge Porcelain Co. Ltd having produced Chairman Mao Porcelain since 1966, Huang said such gift ceramics featuring red colors and peach and plum blossom, have long been favored by government departments and enterprises for their traditional and elegant design.

Previously, orders from government and enterprises accounted for over half of overall sales. But so far this year, its sales have dropped by 30 to 40 percent from the same period last year, Huang said.

Similar chills have been felt by Jingdezhen Ceramic Co., Ltd, a state-owned enterprise (SOE) which has come to depend on group purchases by government departments and other SOEs for half of its annual orders and one-third of its yearly turnover.

Wang Yao, a representative of Jingdezhen Ceramic attending the five-day exhibition, said that this year its sales of gift ceramics had dwindled by roughly 30 percent.

China's ruling Party has started a massive campaign to close the gap between officials and the public and exorcise undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.

Earlier this year, the Discipline arm of the Communist Party of China issued a circular urging officials to refrain from luxurious banquets and gift-giving ahead of big festivals or events.

To deal with the situation, Wang's company is seeking to diversify its target market by catering to the demands of ordinary Chinese and the high-end collection market.

"The regulation has forced us to shift our focus from gift porcelain to elsewhere with potential customers," he explained, adding that the emphasis on TV shopping, outlets and e-commerce have helped offset the sales drops in its traditional markets.

Due to its timely action, the company posted a rise of 13 percent in its total sales volume from January to September from the same period of last year, and a rise of 18 percent in the sales value, according to Wang.

Another company seeking to tide over the frugality campaign is Taiwan-based Franz Porcelain, which erected a ceramic sculpture featuring two lions playing with a ball in the center of the exhibition hall.

Valued at 90,000 yuan, the product on show betrays the company's ambition to cater to the lucrative artwork collection market.

Zhang Yuansheng, manager of the company, told Xinhua that it used to sell over 80 percent of its products as gifts, of which half went to government and firms.

"The gift market has soured due to the government's luxury ban, which, retrospectively, has pushed us to reform and make more masterpieces for collectors," said Zhang.

Wu Yongming, vice chairman of the Jiangxi Provincial Association of Social Sciences, a local government think tank, hailed the frugality campaign as a good measure with double benefits.

"It's good to see more ordinary Chinese being able to consume items that were previously expensive tributes and more governmental expenditure under public scrutiny," said Wu.

By Xinhua writers Liang Saiyu and Ji Shaoting

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