China's Commitment To Reform Has Been A Gamechanger For The Hairy Crab Industry

Government officials in China used to live the high life.

In order to grease the wheels of the government’s machinery, companies often gifted them expensive treats like grain spirits and mooncakes, or fancy dinners featuring delicacies like hairy crabs.

But with the government’s austerity drive launched under president Xi Jinping last year, and reinforced by reforms announced at the Third Plenum this month, the trade in these gifts has all but vanished, according to reporting by the FT.

From the article:

“Ling Zhiping, owner of Ling’s Crab House near Yangcheng lake, says his business is down nearly half so far this season, which traditionally runs from October 20 until the end of this month. Mr Ling is one of no less than 340 floating crab restaurants, many several stories high, clustered along two short streets in the Xiefangyuan area near the lake.

“In previous years, 40 per cent of our sales were from government consumption but this year that 40 per cent is completely gone,” he says. In 18 years of crabbing, he says he has never seen things this bad.”

But crab sellers hope that the cleanup in government will correct the inflated prices of these delicacies, making them more accessible to the common man.

The FT quotes Rong Wei, director of the Kunshan Bacheng Yangcheng Area Crab Industrial Association as saying, “Crabs should be something that ordinary people can afford and the austerity ban will bring the market back to normal.”

Sellers are already adjusting their business models for a post-government austerity world, as demand from high-end companies dries up. The proprietor of the Old Friend crab restaurant in Xiefangyuan, Boss Li, says, “Now, I am flying to other cities promoting our crabs to hotels. They require small to mid-sized crabs — not high-end crabs — because they sell to the mass market.”

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