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Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Chinese booze ban takes liquid lunches off the official menu

Cadres in Guizhou province have been told not to drink alcohol at work events or during their lunch breaks

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 5:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 September, 2017, 10:28pm

Cadres in a southwestern Chinese province have been warned off boozy work events and lunches, with threats of tough penalties if they break a new ban.

Authorities in Guizhou, home of pricey potent liquor brands like Kweichow Moutai and Wuliangye, introduced the ban on Friday, saying it applied to all kinds of alcohol, including red wine and beer.

The new rules come amid a rebound in sales of mao-tai, a luxury variety of baijiu liquor that was once a staple at official banquets and a popular gift for civil servants.

Under the new rules, civil servants are not allowed to buy or drink alcohol on work time, and individuals, private companies and institutes are prohibited from paying for alcohol at official functions.

In a brief online statement, the provincial authorities said the ban applied to officials and communist cadres at all levels of government, the judiciary and state-owned companies.

Alcohol is also off the gift list for government functions.

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The only exceptions are high-level events to promote Guizhou as a destination for foreign investment, but even then organisers will need to get prior approval from discipline inspection authorities.

Disciplinary staff will monitor the ban and violators of the rules face punishment ranging from an administrative warning to demotion.

Managers will also be held to account if their subordinates break the ban.

Daniel Lin, a Guangzhou-based trader in imported beer and red wine, said Guizhou’s sweeping prohibition would not be good for his business.

“It’s definitely bad news for us. Before similar bans only affected domestic baijiu brands but now it might have an impact on imported red wine, too,” Lin said.

An employee at a state bank in Guangzhou said that before the new ban, restrictions on alcohol in general had seemed to be easing.

“At least in high-end and private clubs and restaurants, businessmen and officials have started to drink Moutai’s classic Feitian label again this year,” the banker said.

“We had felt the atmosphere was not as tight and sensitive as before. But Guizhou’s ban is not a good sign.”

“Working at the drinking table” has long been standard operating procedure for cadres across the country but the practice came under pressure in 2012 when China launched an anticorruption campaign targeting lavish official spending on entertainment.

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The growth in the market for high-end liquor and wines also took a hit, with Kweichow Moutai’s sales revenue rising just 1.9 per cent in 2014.

But the company’s fortunes rebounded as sales rose 12.2 per cent in 2015 and 17.4 per cent last year. Now, analysts’ median forecast for Kweichow Moutai’s sales growth this year is 42.4 per cent, according to Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force punished more than 100 personnel for either violating an alcohol ban or failing to prevent subordinates from drinking.