A few cities across China have renewed a push to ban consumption of all alcoholic beverages including wine, beer and the country’s most popular Baijiu among civil servants, specifying that booze is strictly forbidden during and outside of working hours.
The news caused a flurry of reactions online with some cheering for the policy while many questioning its enforcement or lack thereof.
Official lunch and business meetings in China can be boozy affairs, prompting local governments to introduce a booze ban of various strictness in the past few years. In most provinces and cities, government workers are banned from on-the-job drinking in office hours and at all official activities, be it conferences or deal-making dinners.
The new alcohol ban in a few cities in northwestern Gansu province, eastern Jiangsu province, central Henan province and Qinghai province, however, went a step further. It would forbid civil servants from consuming alcohol even after working hours, a de facto all-time booze ban.
In an announcement posted by Qingcheng government in Gansu province in northwestern China, it explicitly prohibits serving of any alcoholic beverages and the consumption of any alcoholic beverages provided by any company or individual at any official function. The ban also stipulates that public officials are prohibited from consuming alcohol, whether they are at work or on holiday, on duty or outside the eight-hour working day.
In Nanyang in Henan province in central China, it introduced a similar ban as well.
In Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu province, policing will look to be a very sobering affair. The city’s police bureau effectively bans police officers from drinking during weekdays “except under special circumstances and for approval by the relevant departments. Drinking is prohibited on working days”.
In Menyuan in Qinghai province near Tibet, the local government introduced a blanket alcohol ban. It strictly forbids government workers to drink alcohol “for any reason” during the workdays.
Despite the stringent ban on paper, whether it can be enforced and checked is another question.
One Weibo user mocked, “how can you check their after-working-hour drinking at home? Following them to their home?”
More online comments focused on perhaps the biggest victim of the booze ban, not the civil servants themselves, but the country’s most popular Baijiu brand, Kweichow Moutai, and its sales and stock prices.
The fiery Chinese spirit made in southwestern Guizhou province is a favorite among Chinese officials and has a deep revolutionary pedigree. It was served to American president Richard Nixon on his first trip to China.
Henry Kissinger, then US Secretary of State, once bantered with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, “if we drink enough Moutai, we can solve anything.”
Its pedigree and massive domestic popularity among businessmen and Chinese drinkers have propped it to become the world’s most valuable liquor brand ahead of UK company Diageo.