China's frugality campaign boon for middle-class

China's frugality campaign boon for middle-class

CHINA - The government's frugality campaign to curb excess is striking exorbitantly priced clubs. Golf associations and their ilk are discovering a lack of card-carrying officials is par for the course, pushing them to swing toward the middle class, An Baijie and Cao Yin report.

Golf-club manager Li Yong said his business has been affected by authorities' frugality campaign. The 33-year-old, who owns a golf course in suburban Beijing's Changping district, said the number of golf players has dropped since early last year, after the Communist Party of China initiated a campaign to curb excessive spending.

In December 2012, the CPC Central Committee put forward an eight-point guideline to require government officials to get closer to the people through cleaning up undesirable work styles, including extravagancy, formalism and bureaucracy.

"The guideline's release has affected the golf market," Li told China Daily.

Many people regard golf membership cards as status symbols. They cost up to 1 million yuan (S$203,000) at some Beijing clubs.

The campaign has made the cards hot potatoes for officials since the campaign began.

In June last year, the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, China's top anti-graft agency, required all disciplinary officials to return all kinds of membership cards to prevent bribery.

The ban has brought a boom for the secondhand golf membership card market. Most memberships are non-refundable and can only be transferred to others, Li said.

Secondhand cards' prices dropped last year, since there were then more sellers than buyers, he added.

The cards provide better services for lower prices.

Many Beijing clubs' websites put the weekend price at more than 1,200 yuan for non-members but less than 200 yuan for members.

Guo Xiaobing, a worker at Beijing Links Golf Club near the North Fourth Ring Road, also said the anti-graft push has hit his club.

"Our business volume is influenced," Guo said.

The campaign has also affected other luxury entertainment sectors, such as horse breeding.

A businessman surnamed Liu, who has run Beijing Shengqishi Mayouhui (Saint Knight) club for 10 years, said horse sales have dropped.

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