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China bans television ads for bling

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
updated 6:14 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China's luxury ad ban targets country's widening wealth disparity
  • Luxury ads 'publicized incorrect values', says China's tv watchdog
  • Share prices of luxury companies fell after China announcement
  • Ad ban latest in series of decisions pushing low-key lifestyle for Communist members

Hong Kong (CNN) -- China has banned advertisements for luxury products on its official state radio and television channels. The move is an apparent attempt to douse growing social frustration in the wealth gap between the country's rich and poor -- and to stop corruption conducted through luxury gift-giving.

Such ads had "publicized incorrect values and helped create a bad social ethos," said China's television watchdog, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), reported Xinhua, the country's official state-run news agency.

The ban includes commercials for high-end watches, gold coins and rare stamps and comes on the eve of China's Lunar New Year celebrations that begin this weekend. The holiday, compared to Christmas in the West, is a time of intense gift- and money-giving.

Share prices of Burberry, LVMH, Richemont and Chow Tai Fook, the world's largest jewelry marker, all fell after Beijing announced the ban.

China's luxury car market sees growth
China youth have savings rate near zero
Luxury shops cater to Chinese tourists

In 2012, China surpassed Japan as the world's largest luxury market. By 2015, McKinsey & Co. had predicted China's luxury market would account for one-fifth of global sales with a value of $27 billion.

Beijing's luxury ad ban may now dampen growth in the market.

China's latest move follows a series of recent statements and decisions from top leaders exhorting Communist party officials to lead a low-key lifestyle to avoid imagery of a leadership out of touch with many of its citizens.

Last November, as Chinese President Hu Jintao prepared to begin the power transition to his successor Xi Jinping, Hu cautioned that failing to stop corruption could result in the demise of the Communist party.

In December, new party rules announced that ornate flower displays, waving schoolchildren welcoming visiting dignitaries and large groups of state officials traveling abroad were prohibited or frowned upon. China's Central Military Commission also banned luxury banquets for military forces and alcohol at official functions.

In January, China's National Bureau of Statistics released an official Gini coefficient reading for the first time in ten years. The figure that measures a country's rich-poor divide was 0.474. A separate survey from December 2012 by China's Southwestern University revealed the country's 2010 Gini coefficient was 0.61.

A number over 0.40 indicates potential for social unrest, according to the United Nations.

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