At lunch today, one of my friends was complaining about the obligations of Spring Festival. I thought at first she just meant cooking, making sure that the wrong relatives don't sit next to each other, sending cards, that kind of thing, but she soon clarified things.
"My friend is a construction magnate in [SECOND-TIER CHINESE MINING CITY], and he has to fly seven city management officials to Paris, because they got him a permit to build a seafood mall last year."
"Huh. Business class?"
"So that's about ... $30,000."
"Oh, he has to fly their families too. And they have to stay in five-star hotels."
"Wow. So I guess about ... say 3.5 people a family ... $150,000 or more ..."
"He's paying for all their shopping."
She also mentioned that her brother, a supermarket buyer, had to hand over his entire salary for the year to his boss every Spring Festival to be allowed to keep his job; he lives (fairly well) off the kickbacks from the companies he purchases from. And that a few years ago, when she'd set up her own steel trading business, her husband and her had had to fork out so much in "presents" at Spring Festival that they lived off instant noodles for a year.