Nothing offends a Chinese employee more than cancelling the annual lunar new year party – a rare chance to eat, drink and win a free iPad or iPhone, courtesy of the boss.
But the austerity drive launched by the new Chinese leadership of Xi Jinping, coupled with the economic slowdown, has led government departments and state-owned enterprises across China to cancel or radically scale back new year festivities this year – the equivalent of office Christmas parties in the West, but often far more lavish. Lunar new year begins this year on February 10, but banqueting season is normally in full swing at least a fortnight before.
Some multinational companies say they are struggling to find any government officials willing to be wined and dined, as they scramble to respond to a fresh call for frugality from Beijing, part of the leadership's anti-corruption drive.
Even private companies are getting in on the austerity act, with some opting to hold their lunar new year parties at fast food restaurants, prompting a backlash from employees on social networking sites. Everyone from caterers to florists, purveyors of fine Chinese wines to watches, report their revenues have been affected by the wave of asceticism.