Sobering Up: China Cracks Down on Binge Drinking

November 11, 2013, 5:20 PM

Sobering Up: China Cracks Down on Binge Drinking

China’s culture of binge drinking at official functions has long been accepted as a ritualized part of doing business in the Middle Kingdom, but a backlash may now be brewing. The government over the weekend demoted a provincial official in northeastern Heilongjiang province and suspended his Communist Party membership for a year after state agents in charge of internal discipline accused him of causing the death of a person who died due to excessive drinking after accompanying him to a banquet,state media reported. Neither the official nor the deceased was named in the reports and the Heilongjiang provincial government didn’t respond to a call for comment.In China, drinking as part of official duties carries a stronger element of compulsion than in countries like the U.S., where alcohol is often more of a fun option for collegial get-togethers provided by a growing number of companies. Gan bei, a Chinese toasting call that literally means “dry cup,” is viewed as an essential foundation of strong guanxi, or relationships. Baijiu, a type of rice liquor, is the preferred lubricant in the corridors of power but all manner of alcohol are used to perpetuate social rituals or boost career potential.

Some employees of state-owned companies tell China Real Time their jobs exclusively entail entertaining clients by taking them out for drinks most evenings of the week. Others have complained of sustaining long-term physical illness resulting from years of alcohol abuse at official functions.Fatalities aren’t unusual.

The more traditional official response has been to mourn for the deceased rather than to punish–or even acknowledge–any wrongdoing. But the response to the Heilongjiang incident last weekend suggests that binge drinking has joined profligacy with public funds and ill-gotten luxury on a list of prohibitions for government ranks under a new president who has made austerity a watchword. Late last year, a month after Xi Jinping took the helm of China’s ruling party and military, the country’s top brass had already set the tone by saying it would put an end to boozy banquets for high-level officers.

The party’s probity sentinels are still engaged in a high-stakes corruption crackdownand have recently embarked on a refreshed public-relations campaign. But it’s not just official boozing that the disciplinary watchdogs are homing in on. The state media report over the weekend said that authorities since April have auctioned or confiscated nearly 6,000 government vehicles that had specifications bigger or better than what state rules allowed. More than 8,100 apartments and 25,000 vehicles illegally kept by military personnel have been found. And officials have been probed for using public funds on private dinners or unauthorized overseas trips.

“The top leadership is giving unmistakable evidence it is very serious in this campaign,” Ye Duchu, a professor at a top Communist Party school, told China Daily. By using “moral models” as a basis to punish government abuses, Mr. Xi may be moving to counter rising popular disaffection with the government. In a one-party state, a wide-ranging campaign to stamp out corruption, waste and even binge drinking looks a lot like a bid to consolidate the popular mandate.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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