And you thought the nanny state was bad enough in Australia. Well the city of Shangqiu in Henan province has gone a step further. In 2007 it set up the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption to reduce alcohol consumption at government-funded lunches. No nipping out for a quiet glass at your own expense either. Officials were forbidden from consuming alcohol during the day. Staff members of the Office of Forbidding Midday Alcohol Consumption wait at the doors of restaurants, randomly inspect offices, and talk with officials to see if anyone has disobeyed the rule.
Details of this and other interesting aspects of China’s massive bureaucracy are given in the latest Tea Leaf Nation report “Foot Spas, Steamed Buns, and Midday Drinking”. Those steamed buns, it seems, are a matter of vital concern.
The proliferation of steamed bun offices has been causing trouble since at least 2001, when a local paper reported that in Zhengzhou alone, there were a total of six steamed bun offices at various levels, all of which held the power to approve (or to halt) the production of buns, a staple food for Henan residents. Jurisdictional conflicts often took place between these six offices, and the Zhengzhou city government later revoked their charters. But that hasn’t stopped other provinces from operating their own steamed bun regulatory committees. An Oct. 23 article in national outlet Beijing News showed staff from the steamed bun office in the ancient capital of Xi’an conducting a spot check on the weight of buns in a local kitchen.
I was rather taken by The Watermelon Office.
This organization in Zhengzhou, the capital of the central province of Henan, helps suburban farmers sell their watermelons in the city by creating a “watermelon map” to connect buyers and vendors. The watermelon office isn’t short on social media savvy; the office now boasts over 50,000 followers on its verified account on Weibo, China’s Twitter.
China’s state owned media are publicising efforts to streamline such “redundant” local committees out of existence following the June 2013 launch of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “mass-line campaign,” which seeks to fight corruption by bringing cadres in the ruling Communist Party closer to the people they ostensibly serve. The Xinhua newsagency reported this month on the efforts to reduce bureaucracy and red tape. But the redundancies are easier to claim than to achieve.
Tea Leaf Nation noted:
State media may be trumpeting Xi’s mass-line cleanup a bit prematurely. Some of the cited organizations continue to exist. After the publication of Xinhua’s critical article, the director of the Watermelon Office told one news outlet that the office would not be disbanded and would continue to serve farmers next year. There is no evidence showing the Pingshan government has gutted its ragweed removal outfit. And according to the website of the Xi’an Grain Bureau, its version of a steamed bun authority still persists.