An editorial in today's China Daily reminds businesses of the moral decadence caused by marketers. In particular, the editorial points at a beer fountain that was to be used at a Harbin beer festival.
The editorial reads:
Plans for a fountain of beer at the Harbin beer festival have been scrapped after a trial run prompted a nationwide outcry last week.
Ten tons of beer used in the pilot operation flowed into the drainage system of the capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
The fountain is not only a tasteless promotional tool but also the manifestation of a trend that is of more concern than marketing professionals that lack imagination.
For some, the pursuit of affluence has become a drive for extravagance.
Society desperately needs to promote values that will encourage enterprises to use wealth sensibly and encourage citizens to abandon their dreams of unreasonably luxurious lifestyles.
Inaction in the face of the negative trend will result in further waste of resources and decay of morals.
Understandably the organizers of the beer festival wanted to use the spectacular centrepiece to attract visitors. They said the fountain promoted "beer culture."
But what many saw was not a flowing cultural monument but a symbol for "reckless waste of nature's produce" a sin condemned by Chinese classics.
Organizers planned to use 90 tons of beer for the fountain. Experts say producing that much beer consumes 1,800 tons of water, 18 tons of barley and rice, and 9 tons of coal.
That is outrageous in a developing country that is troubled by shortages of energy and water, and other natural resources.
The figures are in sharp contrast to the social realities of Heilongjiang, one of the provinces that have suffered most during the transition from the planned economy to a market-based one.
The province, which used to be a leading heavy industry base, suffers heavily from large groups of laid-off workers from State enterprises, recipients of social welfare for people with the lowest living standards, and the lowest urban resident per capita consumption.
A worker installing devices at the fountain was quoted by the Heilongjiang Morning News as saying that in his everyday life, buying a bottle of beer is a matter to be properly thought through.
Many better-off Chinese have fallen prey to materialism, leading them to pursue commodities that are out of their financial reach.
Luxury goods, excessively large houses and expensive sedan cars are selling at an exponential rate.
Many companies and business people are enthusiastic about ostentatious activities. Corporate social responsibility remains a mystery to them.
Local government officials are known for their love of grand ceremonies and projects.
From the explanation given by an official from Harbin's tourism bureau, we can deduce the beer fountain had the backing of the local government.
Just a few days ago, at a beer festival in Chongqing, a southwestern city, revellers threw tons of beer over each other for fun.
It is a relief that not everybody watched the fountain with awe and envy. Many heavily criticized the ridiculous move. Sober journalists also played a crucial role in stopping the great waste.
Combating similar waste remains a huge problem that is likely to get worse.
Concrete measures are needed to provide incentives for conservation and impose limitations or punishments on waste.