Expensive Christmas dinner triggers debate in China

15:13, December 15, 2010      

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Since Christmas is approaching, overseas and domestic sellers are both scrambling to devise a new scheme to attract customers.

Huanglong Hotel, a five-star restaurant in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, plans to serve a unique Christmas dinner with well-known and expensive dishes; top French wine; ballet, jazz and choir shows; and even the opportunity to get a free iPad by lucky draw on Christmas Eve. But, the dinner is hardly cheap: 3,988 yuan per person.

Apart from the Huanglong Hotel, most five-star restaurants in Hangzhou plan to offer such a Christmas dinner charging more than 1,000 RMB per person.

"We only have 60 seats for Christmas dinner, but not one was empty last year, and more than half the seats have been reserved this year. So you had better be quick if you want to book a table here for Christmas," said Ms. Zeng, a worker for a five-star-hotel in Hangzhou. She also said their materials, services and cooks were all top ranked and it absolutely worth spending that much money.

Yang Nan, who manages a restaurant in Hangzhou, told reporters that those so-called "Expensive Eve dinners" were actually businessmen taking advantages of performances, lucky draws and top materials to jack up the prices.

Many citizens of Hangzhou said they would not go for the expensive dinners. A middle school teacher named Zhang Lijuan says the annual income for a normal citizen is about 20,000 RMB to 30,000 RMB, and living pressure has been increasing due to the rise in prices, so it is totally luxury to enjoy such a meal.

Allen, an American student who studies in Hangzhou, said they usually share food cooked by his mother or grandmother, chat and talk with family on Christmas Eve.

"Expensive food for a family dinner is total unnecessary," he said, "so I don't understand why people eat those so-called Christmas dinners, which cost enough for me to live for a few months."

The high prices of such dinners have triggered great social debates, but doing so does not violate any Chinese laws if the sellers sell their goods on marked prices.

However, "It is quite not reasonable if what the high price dinner brings is not entertainment and enjoyment but the sense of status and blind pursuit of this," Fu Liqun, a socialist, said.

Xinhua contributed to the story

By Wang Hanlu, People's Dailyi Online
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