Chinese Communist Party Secretary dies from official binge-drinking

Today many British newspapers are reporting on the death of Shen Hao, 46, the communist Party Secretary of Fengyang county's Xiaogang village, who died on Friday after an official binge-drinking-prone banquet. Mr Shen is now the third victim of a new tradition of lush business events in which drinking heavily is the way to prove status and engage in conversation. Previous victims were Jin Guoqing, deputy director of water resources in Xinzhou district (47) and Guo Shizhong, a family planning official from Xinyang, Central China's Henan province. Now: Mr Shen is being mourned by his fellow villagers in Xiaogang as the one who brought about development. Between 2004 and 2008 Mr Shen’s work allowed for the income per capita to grow three-fold, the China Daily reports. Mr Shen was a civil servant devoted to his job and his death, the villagers commented, was learnt with great sadness.

Taking one step back from this scene of mourning and rural development, Mr Shen is the symbol of China’s changing drinking culture. This, now more than ever, has become connected to the business environment in which drinking is part of the job. The Ganbei Culture, i.e ‘bottoms-up’,  has penetrated the realm of business by promising to imbibe it with signs of strength, masculinity and resistance. This anecdote might sound like nothing new under the British sun. However, in China, official deaths of civil servants after a night out with their colleagues, become worthy of the nation’s attention. According to an anonymous civil servant in Tianjin, quoted by the China Daily, the government urgently needs to restrain such behaviours among its officials. However, one wonders if China’s economic boom will allow for such loosening of its business drinking-culture. Or, whether it will need to keep it up in order to be competitive with its business partners on our side of the world, who, as we all know, are very well trained for drinking-tasks and the like.
10/11/2009