Following a series of developments to trigger economic growth in light of trade tensions with the United States, the Chinese government, led by Xi Jinping, has established a specialised institution for the primary purpose of brewing baijiu – a renowned local spirit.
Meeting farmworkers in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang, Xi warned that: “Unilateralism and protectionism in the world are on the rise and force us to rely on ourselves”, triggering a new policy to produce more goods domestically, which ultimately increases exports.
Consequently, around 2,400 students are learning how to distil, inspect and market baijiu, in order to produce what journalists such as Dan Rather refers to as “liquid razor blades”.
Furthermore, the £45 million college, based in the Sichuan mountains, has also benefited Wuliangye, one of the region’s largest government supported brands, where more than 50,000 workers brew the spirit in factories resembling enormous barns.
To incentivise productivity, multiple statues have been erected, such as: a 50ft structure of the goddess of rice wine, representing good harvests; a shark with a fish in its jaws, to remind workers of the importance of being at the top of the food chain; and a 100ft bottle of baijiu.
In an attempt to undercut American alcohol sales in China, Wuliangye collaborated with the Austrian crystal maker Swarovski, in order to create wedding-themed baijiu bottles, of which one is shaped like a diamond ring. The school is also in the process of developing English terms for varying baijiu tastes, so that Western drinkers can more easily order their choice of beverage.
On top of this, efforts have been made in sending baijiu to England’s royal family, alongside informal tasting sessions at the Hard Rock Café in Los Angeles.
Commenting on her passion for drinking baijiu, Luo Meixin, a student at the college, said: “I think this part of our culture could be a way to connect with others… To connect with Americans.”