Chinese official dies from drinking too much after first day on job

photo courtesy of globalannal.wordpress.com
photo courtesy of globalannal.wordpress.com
photo courtesy of globalannal.wordpress.com

A Chinese official died from drinking too much — on his first day on the job.

Zhong Xiefei died from excessive drinking the evening of April 9, according to South China Morning Post. That Wednesday he enjoyed his first — and last — day of work as deputy chief of Laibin city, located in Guangxi province in south China.

Zhong began drinking baijiu, China’s national liquor, with other provincial and county-level officials that day at lunch.

That night, family members said he went to sleep and snored loudly, although nothing suggested he had drunk a dangerous amount. The next morning Zhong was found dead about 6 a.m.

Seven of his drinking companions were fired over the incident.

Ever since president Xi Jinping promised to crackdown on the party’s powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies” in a January 2013 anti-corruption speech, indulging in lush meals has been a no-no among government officials — especially county-level officers like Zhong, who spend the most time at banquets among all levels of government, according to a study conducted by Communication University of China in Beijing.

In 2013, the average Chinese county official attended 12.2 banquets per week. This is actually a decrease from the 18 attended every week in 2012.

In September 2013, Kweichow Moutai, the world’s biggest producer of baijiu, also reported its slowest half-year gain since 2001. Year on year, total revenue was down 1.47 percent.

Officials are quick to credit the decline in banquet numbers and luxury liquor sales to Xi’s anti-graft campaign.

Yet Zhong’s death is proof that drinking remains customary at many government lunches and dinners. Xi’s campaign will have to target the entire social culture of his government to be effective — not just it’s drinking habits.

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