- - Wednesday, January 2, 2013

One of the first orders issued by China’s new supreme leader, Xi Jinping, was a ban on alcohol use in the People’s Liberation Army.

There are good reasons for this: The army has too many alcoholics and their presence has severely affected the combat capability of the world’s largest military.

According to the PLA Daily, the official military newspaper, one of several examples of excessive alcohol use is a report about an airborne division that spent about half of its “reception fees” on booze. “Reception fees” is Chinese government jargon for expenditures on entertainment, banquets, lodging and transportation, international protocol and related amenities.

Another example: A review of an armored division’s physical fitness found a high rate of alcohol-related high blood pressure and liver disease among its troops.

A perennial alcohol-related problem is the practice of lower-ranking officers making seemingly unending toasts to their superiors with high alcohol-content liquor during frequent banquets. The toasts produce a prolonged state of alcohol-induced stupor among many senior officers.

Several high-ranking officers were sacked for corruption often associated with alcohol abuse, including Vice Adm. Wang Shouye, the former deputy navy chief; and Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, the former deputy commander of the General Logistics Department, one of the military’s most powerful units.

China’s military-industrial complex also has a special link to alcohol production: Maotai is one of China’s most prestigious and potent liquor brands, and reportedly is produced by a “jointly constructed” company whose partners include all seven regional military commands.

About 20 percent of Maotai’s production is consumed by the military, according to estimates. No other Chinese company has been able to achieve such a high level of “jointness” with the PLA.

The intrinsic tie between liquor and the military is evident throughout China.

On Dec. 24, the day after the booze ban was announced, Maotai’s stock in China’s financial market plummeted by 5.55 percent, leading the nosedive for all major liquor brands in China.

S. Korea detains 22 Chinese fishing BOATS

China is conducting a people’s war against South Korea’s maritime authorities by dispatching a large number of fishing vessels into the South Korean exclusive economic zone.

South Korean authorities retaliated with an intensified crackdown on Chinese fishing vessels.

From Dec. 26 to Dec. 28, South Korean maritime police detained 22 Chinese fishing vessels and chased away another 32, according to South Korean news accounts.

China and South Korea frequently clash over fishing rights and maritime claims. The key issue is China’s refusal to recognize any meaningful exclusive zone demarcations in the narrow waters between China and the Korean Peninsula. South Korea insists there are clearly defined lines based on international legal regimes and maritime laws.

China’s fishing boats often carry out operations on behalf of the government to provoke other countries, as in a recent spat with the Philippines near Scarborough Shoal.

China has territorial disputes with virtually all of its maritime neighbors, including its communist ally North Korea, where Chinese fishermen occasionally are detained by the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang.

South Korean maritime police in recent months were involved in a few high-profile confrontations with several Chinese fishing vessels operating illegally.

Last year, a Chinese captain fatally stabbed a South Korean maritime police officer during a search operation. Soon after that, a Chinese fisherman was killed by a rubber bullet fired by a South Korean maritime policeman.

Most of the Chinese fishing vessels operate at night to evade detection and capture by the South Korean police, according to South Korean police sources.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.