The Central Military Commission – China’s top command and control of the People’s Liberation Army, the People’s Armed Police and People’s Liberation Army militia – is once again waging a war against alcohol, as its generals still turn to booze to beat work pressure and inebriated soldiers are a big dent on the force’s image and war capabilities.

In a sternly-worded memo issued to all units and sentry posts, all PLA and paramilitary personnel were warned not to drink alcohol while on duty, on bases or in uniform. It added a detailed list of circumstances when not a single drop of their favorite tipple is allowed, and where just a few sips are permitted, as well as a mechanism to name and shame any offenders.

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A banquet hosted by the Central Military Commission. Photo: Xinhua

This is not the first time that the Chinese military has been at odds with alcohol: usually at the end of each year, a similar caveat will be given prior to the New Year and Spring Festive breaks, when toasting and bolting down alcohol are the norm and servicemen have a great time schmoozing and boozing.

Previous bans have all been negated by widespread intemperance and thus a renewed, stepped-up effort was seen to be needed, given it’s the time of the year when soldiers tend to drink more.

For other occasions and revelries like parties to farewell veterans or official visits and exchanges, alcohol is still seen as a kind of liquid “munition”, to bind soldiers together and oil the process of work, just like in Russia, where vodka is among military supplies.

And, the less you drink, the less regard you have for your supervisors or comrades-in-arms, as the traditional Chinese thinking goes, so much so that those who are never fond of alcohol are also forced to drink due to peer pressure.

Moutai liquor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Moutai liquor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Binge drinking is also regarded as a form of bravery and intrepid military spirit, and has been like ‘second nature’ for most soldiers and generals since ancient China.

Kweichow Moutai used to produce a top-line baijiu (white liquor) for the military and market it with a fat markup. During the Chinese Civil War, PLA forces camped in the town of Maotai and partook of the local liquor.

A Kweichow Moutai subsidiary also brews another baijiu, Xi, which soon became a hit product after Xi Jinping took the reins of the country and the army in 2012.

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Soldiers have to go through a daily breath test. Photo: PLA Daily

But now, slogans like “stay sober, defend your country”, “if you drink, you can’t fight”, etc, are seen everywhere on camps nationwide, and all personnel have to pass a daily breath test, the People’s Daily reports.

Other than awareness campaigns, the PLA’s five theater commands have all set up report hotlines and dispatched plain-clothes inspectors for spots checks, according to the party mouthpiece.

Servicemen are especially reminded not to patronize bars and restaurants when wearing uniforms if they take time off, and to avoid lavish dinners hosted by private firms and contracted suppliers.