Chinese leaders are off limits for wine companies’ promotions, even with a ringing endorsement coming from China’s first chairman Mao Zedong himself, as the country tightens its grip on advertising for alcoholic beverages.
Two Chinese wine companies learned the hard way and were fined over RMB 20,000 (US$3,000) by authorities.
First in line taking the hit is a Tianjin-based wine importing company specializing in Georgian wines. The wines from Georgia, the ancient cradle of wine, have boomed in mainland China thanks to warming Sino-Georgia relations and the fact Mao was served the wine during his first state visit to Moscow.
The wine is no stranger to Stalin’s state dinners, as the former Soviet leader was born in Georgia. Party lore goes that Mao during dinner saw Stalin mixing Georgian red wines with white, prompting Stalin to explain that he believes adding white wines into red enhances wine’s floral aromas.
The story itself was also confirmed by Ji Yanchi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Georgia. “All Chinese know that Stalin served the Chinese leader Mao Zedong with Georgian red wine Kindzmarauli, so this wine is very popular among Chinese,” he said in an interview.
For years, Georgian wine companies have capitalized the story to promote Georgian wines, until now.
The Tianjin company is fined for close to RMB 10,000 for failing to produce Chinese back labels for 74 bottles of Georgian wines, and the illegal use of Chinese leader’ images in advertising and promotions will be investigated in a separate case, according to Tianjin Administration for Market Regulation’s announcement.
Violation of China’s advertising law could face fines between RMB 20,000 and RMB 1 million.
Coincidentally, another wine company based in Hebei was also penalized for “using images of state and Party officials” and was handed a RMB 20,000 fine. The announcement however did not identify which leader’s image was inappropriately used.
Although Chinese leaders are strictly off limits, foreign leaders seem not.
Former US president Donald Trump is a popular source of Chinese merchandise sold online from Trump toilet plungers to meditating Trump Buddha with a booming slogan “make your company great again”.