File image - Riots in China's ethnically divided Xinjiang have reportedly left 27 dead in the latest outbreak of violence in the troubled western region. AFP PHOTO / Soe Than WIN

Beijing - China has banned ads that encourage giving luxury gifts to authorities, state media said Thursday, the latest push against official extravagance since new leaders took charge vowing better governance.

The ban came ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday on Sunday, as part of a high-profile campaign against government waste and corruption launched after Xi Jinping and others took over the ruling Communist Party in November.

Offering presents to authorities to curry favour is a widespread practice in China, and one of many targets in a party directive in December that also outlined restrictions on splashy banquets, travel and government cars.

“Some commercials broadcast on some channels support a culture of gift giving to superiors that include luxury watches, rare stamps and gold coins,” the Global Times reported, citing the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

“This has spread incorrect values and help create a bad social ethos,” it quoted SARFT as saying, adding that it also urged more public service advertisements promoting “Chinese traditions and civilised lifestyles”, calling radio and TV “important cultural and ideological strongholds”.

The paper quoted television company employees saying that the ban was on particular types of promotions, rather than on product types.

The China Daily described the affected advertisements as those suggesting goods were “must-have items for superiors”.

It quoted Zhang Zhian, a communications academic at a university in Guangzhou, saying that choosing gifts was “always a headache” for him when he returns home for the New Year holiday.

“The easiest solution is to choose the gift they all know, which is often one that is heavily advertised,” he said. “Although many people would regard the content of ads that promote products as a proper gift as silly, they re-inforce the notion of gift-giving.”

State media have in recent months reported widely on decisions by official bodies from the military to local governments to ditch red carpets, floral arrangements and other expenditures as part of the nationwide campaign. - Sapa-AFP