Moutai is wrong target for attacks

Updated: 2012-03-24 07:51

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Moutai is wrong target for attacks

To drink, or not to drink Moutai, that is the question.

The brand became the center of controversy when a deputy of the National People's Congress proposed banning the liquor at banquets funded with public money.

The NPC deputy put forward such a motion simply because Moutai produces the most expensive Chinese liquor and therefore spending public funds on the brand is simply squandering public money.

It sounds reasonable. But it aims at the wrong target.

Is it Moutai alcohol that renders the spending particularly high on such banquets, or the other way round?

This is not a difficult question to answer.

It is because of the lack of restraint over the public purse strings - which allows government officials at all levels to spend as much as they like entertaining guests or themselves - that Moutai, a symbol of position and wealth, is consumed at these banquets.

Bearing this in mind, the question posed by the head of the Moutai distillery in response to the proposed ban is a good one - What will be the substitute if Moutai is banned on such occasions?

He asked whether the considerably more expensive Chateau Lafite Rothschild would be drunk instead of Moutai.

His rationale is that if alcoholic drinks must be consumed on such occasions, domestic alcohol, the best brand in particular, instead of foreign ones, should be consumed.

As the head of the most well-known distillery in the country, there is nothing wrong with him saying anything in the interests of his distillery. However, there is something wrong with the premise that alcohol is indispensable for such occasions.

While good-quality alcohol is appropriate for banquets in honor of State guests where it is a token of good will, why is it necessary for alcohol to be consumed when local government officials are entertaining a delegation from another province or city?

In a motion proposed by the Jiusan Society, one of the eight non-Communist parties in China, to the session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, it was estimated that 300 billion yuan ($47.6 billion) of public money was spent on banquets nationwide in the year 2011. It is reported that a local city district in Guizhou province, where Moutai is produced, managed to consume 1,200 bottles of Moutai last year.

A selective ban imposed on a single brand of alcohol will in no way reduce the spending on public banquets unless there are strict rules to restrict the consumption of any brand of alcohol at official banquets or a strict stipulation setting limits to the amount that can be spent on such occasions.

The National People's Congress deputy should not point the finger of blame at Moutai simply because of his indignation at the waste of public money on official banquets. If he proposed to ban alcohol at banquets funded with public money, I would support him and I believe that many more would as well, and the head of the Moutai distillery would have no grounds for complaint, no matter how much he would hate the proposal.

The real issue is not whether the spending of public money on Moutai is extravagant or not. The real issue is whether any public money should be spent on alcohol for entertaining officials.

As the spending on such occasions is excessive, tighter budget control clearly needs to be introduced to make it harder to squander public money in this way.

As for the development of Moutai, if it lowered its prices, it would be within reach of many more people.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail:

(China Daily 03/24/2012 page5)