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A government official in North China's Shanxi Province S'well Bottles 17oz Titanium Clearance , surnamed Gao, has noticed his colleagues dressing differently since the broom of austerity began sweeping through the nation two years ago.


"Flashy logos on bags are no longer seen in our offices. Few people wear designer brands at work," he said, somewhat embarrassed by his watch, a conference souvenir.


With the deepening anti-graft campaign, the consumption of luxury brands has dropped considerably in China S'well Bottles 17oz Blanc Crocodile Clearance , with some officials turning to more inconspicuous bribery methods, including gifts of money - so-called red envelopes - online during the Spring Festival.


Trial by Internet


At a luxury mall in Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi, a few customers stroll ambivalently among expensive boutiques. Tianmei Mall's sales manager surnamed Liang is dismayed. Sales, which used to boom in the run-up to Chinese New Year, have dropped precipitously. Menswear sales are down by nearly 30 percent.


Liang takes Cerruti1881 S'well Traveler Bottle Clearance , an upscale men's fashion brand, as an example. "Few people even enter the boutique, let alone buy a suit."


Suits sold here cost as much as 30,000 yuan ($4,900), but even with a free sweater thrown in S'well Leopard Bottle Clearance , few shoppers seem interested. Previously the store only included a free belt with a suit, and sales were good.


According to a sales assistant surnamed Li, apart from obviously wealthy customers, officials who were clearly spending money that was not theirs also bought the clothes. "But now, there's fewer of this kind of official."


The eagle-eyes of China's legions of netizens notoriously zoom in on officials' clothes, jewelry S'well Gold Bottle Clearance , wristwatches or even the cigarettes dangling from their lips, checking brands and posting their findings on the Internet. Finding examples of officials' dubious conduct has become almost a hobby for many. Debates on who paid how much for what are rife: Civil servants in China do not receive high salaries.


"Brother Watch" Yang Dacai, a former safety official from Shaanxi Province, was famously spotted wearing different luxury watches in different photographs. Yang is now serving the second year of his 14-year prison sentence for taking bribes and being unable to explain where his millions of yuan came from.


Sales of jewelry, haute-couture and other luxury goods fell 1 percent last year, the first drop in eight years S'well Metallic Camo Bottle Clearance , according to management consulting firm Bain & Company. Sales of men's wristwatches were down 13 percent, men's fashion by 10 percent.


Sociologist Guo Xinping of Shanxi University said that a broad drop in luxury sales was inevitable after the frugality campaign started in December 2012. Extravagance among officials has been contained somewhat. Officials fear being named, shamed, fired or even imprisoned.


Graft goes undercover


A Wall Street Journal article published in early February stated that "lingerie stores in China are seeing strong sales of $300 bras and other pricey skivvies."


Has austerity brought "inconspicuous consumption?" Have government officials merely switched from flaunting their ill-gotten gains in public to more discrete displays of wealth?


One online wiseacre said authorities need to hire an "agent provocateur," or undercover agent, to root out corruption. "Agent Provocateur" is a well-known London lingerie company.


Some people have turned to bribing officials with calligraphy and paintings worth millions of yuan S'well Satin Bottle Clearance , as they believe such gifts are both "elegant" and "inconspicuous," the Nanfang Daily reported.


Zhang Yanli, a procurator from Xicheng district in Beijing, said that bribery involving money can be easily traced, but objects can be hidden, making them difficult to find.


Gift cards are also being used as discreet bribes. They are tantamount to cash in shopping malls and can easily be changed into cash through scalpers.


Wang S'well Liberty London Clearance , a courier, has delivered several "tiny" parcels recently. When opened, the recipients are delighted to find carefully wrapped gift cards in the dainty packages.


Gift cards of more than 10,000-yuan in value are hard to find these days as government agencies are banned from giving cards to staff and graft-busters have specifically targeted "gift card bribery."


Only cards with small values are on sale at a shopping center in Haikou, capital of Hainan Province. A sales assistant surnamed Wen said that sales dried up as the anti-graft campaign picked up speed. Buying these cards now requires real-name registration.


Meanwhile, the many-headed hydra of corruption has taken sales of high-value cards into the virtual world. Almost anything can be bought or sold online in e-commerce-crazy China. Nothing is easier or more inconspicuous to deliver than a small square of plastic. Scalpers are hanging around shopping malls less and less. To "recycle" cards they simply go online and exchange cards for cash via e-payment.


Even traditional Spring Festival red envelopes have become virtual. Just one tap on the mobile app S'well Spectrum Bottle Clearance , and you can send money to others in "an electronic red envelope."


Being good or looking good?


Xiaoxue runs a hairdressing salon in Linjiang, Jilin Province. The salon is close to several government agencies. Xiaoxue's business once flourished with frequent visitors by government workers.


"They often came in during the day, sneaking away from their work. Some of them even brought friends or guests and spent lavishly at my salon. Did they use their own money? I don't think so!" she said.


Since last year, Xiaoxue's daytime business has dwindled. A former customer told her that stricter rules and supervision have forbidden them from idling and sneaking off during the day.


"One customer got out the chair with her hair only half done and went back to the office immediately after her colleague phoned her," she said.


Frugality rules prohibit lavish banquets and "work discu"

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Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:06 pm
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