By Mike Derrett

Fears that the current downturn in the leisure boating market in China may spread to other parts of Asia have been highlighted by new moves being sponsored by the Chinese government to base a regional anticorruption network in China.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Asia-Pacific nations are set to endorse a plan to base a regional anticorruption network in China, which intends to run it within the Communist Party’s secretive investigative agency. China is increasingly extending its domestic anti-graft campaign internationally to, as one policy maker put it, “cut off the escape route of corrupt fugitives”.

Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which ran recently in Beijing, are set to affirm a plan for information-sharing on corruption.

The China market has seen a considerable downturn in sales of larger leisure yachts in the past two years. Many in the industry attribute this to the government’s strict anti-corruption policy, expanded under President Xi Jinping’s administration, which has led to a decline in the sales of many luxury products in China which has a tradition of lavish business entertaining and where yachts had started to play a strong part.

At the recent China Yachting Conference in October, attended by SB at Nansha Marina on China’s Pearl River Delta, a keynote speech by Yang Xinfa, the chairman of the China Boat Industry and Trade Association (CBITA) included a comment that “the China government wants the general public to be more involved in boating and even out class disparity by promoting small boats rather than larger luxury yachts.”

While many in Asia’s yachting industry are often reluctant to comment on controversial issues such as this one, Mike Simpson, owner of Simpson Marine which has the largest sales network in Asia with 14 regional offices, commented to SB that “the wealthy are still wealthy and will still spend but with more circumspection; especially in China. Who knows what impact this will have on regional markets? We will just keep trying as we have always done.”

It’s likely that yachting markets in Asia that have less Chinese influence and are more expatriate-centric such as Phuket and Singapore will suffer less in any regional downturn due to anticorruption issues. However, for other parts of the Asia region, luxury may well become a dirty word, as it already has in China.