Chinese leader calls for curb on 'hedonism'

Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan waves to reporters in Nairobi
Image caption Wang Qishan says decadence and extravagance have taken root in Chinese society

A senior Chinese leader is urging Communist Party members to help restrain the "hedonism" that he says has infected Chinese society.

Politburo member Wang Qishan said party members should live frugally in order to counter decadent lifestyles.

Economic reforms have brought prosperity to a country that was once desperately poor.

China's leaders have encouraged consumption to spur growth, but now seem worried about extravagance.

This latest call also seems part of a wider campaign against corruption in China, particularly within the Communist Party.

Frugal history

Mr Wang, responsible for discipline in the party, made his comments on a visit to the city of Tianjin ahead of a national holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival, at which people usual give each other presents.

"Highly infectious hedonism and extravagance exists among party members and also the public," he was quoted as saying by Xinhua, the state-run news agency.

He said frugality was a traditional virtue with a long history in China, adding that "hedonism should be curbed".

To understand what Mr Wang is talking about, you need to turn back the clock.

Just a few decades ago, clothes, to name just one group of products, were provided by the state in China, and came in just a few colours and designs.

But economic reforms are making the country richer, and some can now afford designer labels and many other luxuries. Money has turned Beijing, once a largely colourless and drab capital, into an exciting place to live and visit.

China's Communist Party leaders want people to consume more to promote growth, and are currently rebalancing the economy to get people to spend more. But they also worry that some are simply too extravagant.

This extravagance is linked to corruption, which President Xi Jinping has made a renewed effort to stamp out because it undermines the communists' authority among China's citizens.

To highlight how prevalent this problem is, just this week an official from Shaanxi province was jailed for 14 years for corruption. His prosecution came after various pictures emerged of him wearing a range of expensive watches.

Mr Wang said the party must adhere to "strict self-management" if it wanted to change how ordinary people live.