Mr. Shangkong

Faith can go on its merry way, but get the festive spirit and shop

That's what Christmas means on the tinsel-laden streets of the mainland's big cities, even though state media outlets aren't buying into all the fuss

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 4:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 8:21am

"Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" is probably the most frequently heard greeting these days in offices or on the street in Hong Kong. On the mainland, the story might be a little bit different.

In big mainland cities like Shanghai and Beijing, almost every shop has been trying to make the best use of the Christmas season to push up sales in recent weeks. For example, all kinds of Christmas-related decorations have been set up across Nanjing Road in Shanghai, the busiest shopping avenue on the mainland.

But in the mainland media, the Christmas story is somehow restricted, especially in the top-tier state-owned media organisations.

I did a quick keyword search on the official Weibo pages of both the People's Daily and the Liberation Daily, and the word "Christmas" was only mentioned twice this month - and also the only two times so far this year. Editors and reporters say it's sort of an unwritten rule that they should not write too much to promote Western holidays, especially a religious holiday like Christmas.

Religious? Of course, if you talk about Christmas. But I wonder how many people walking along Nanjing Road in Shanghai these days can really tell what the Bible says about Jesus Christ and why we celebrate Christmas nowadays.

Some people may say it really doesn't matter. Business is business. Who will care whether the story about the origin of St Valentine's Day is real or not? Let's just fall in love and De Beers will be waiting for us to buy the ring.

Sounds like the same logic at work in the business perspective on Christmas.

Talking of big spending, according to my government sources in Shanghai, the local branch of the powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party, the mainland's top internal anti-graft agency, has issued an order to all government departments and major state-owned enterprises in the city that they should refrain from big spending in holiday celebrations.

How big is big? Is to print some holiday greeting cards and calendars and send them to your working contacts as gifts really a big thing?

To the anti-graft agency in Shanghai, it seems that it is, and that's why printing such cards and calendars to distribute as gifts is strictly banned this year.

From an environmental perspective, it seems the Communist Party this year could save a lot of trees. Good job, Mr President Xi Jinping!

But while Xi is certainly right to attack corruption, some business people argue his anti-corruption efforts have gone too far and been turned into micro-management.

"Don't send your friend a Christmas or New Year card? Now the party rules everyone like in kindergarten," a friend of mine who works for a government department complained. He tells me there is an economic forecast popular among civil servants - we will first see many restaurants close due to a lack of trade, then hotels, and then printing businesses.

Make sense? Here in Hong Kong, I still have the freedom to say this in my newspaper - Merry Christmas!


George Chen is the Post's financial services editor. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in the print version of the SCMP. Like it? Visit