Following industry consultation, China’s 2021 Import and Export Tariff Code has come up with a new official English name for the country’s traditional liquor; “Chinese Baijiu.” The new name appears on export documentation as of 1 Jan. 2021 as China valiantly tries to persuade the rest of the world that China’s favorite spirit deserves its place amongst the world-famous alcoholic drinks, 16 thousand Weibo users have offered enthusiastic comments about the decision under the hashtag #Chinese-Baijiu-Gets-a-New-English-Name 中国白酒英文名改了#.
What’s the story?
The strong sorghum-based alcohol is not only an essential part of every Chinese banquet, but also an extremely valuable commodity on the Chinese stock market.
Despite its central importance to Chinese culture, until recently its English customs code read simply “Chinese distilled spirits.” Officially recognizing the drink as Chinese Baijiu, using the Chinese for “white alcohol” elevates it to the same level as Brandy, Whisky, Vodka, Rum and Gin.
Given its huge number of drinkers, almost exclusively in China, Baijiu sells more than all other global liquor types put together. China’s Baijiu Association hopes the new recognition will help brand the booze abroad, bringing in more international fans. The Association has also listed aroma categories in Chinese pinyin on customs lists to standardize descriptions of different Baijiu types.
What are people saying online?
The simplicity and China-centric nature of the name change appeals to Weibo users for a very practical reason: exams. Many of the top comments mentioned China’s word-heavy English college entrance exam. “Oh, I wish they’d changed it quicker, so I wouldn’t have had to learn how to write “Chinese distilled liquor” for my CET4 (College English Test 4) exam.”
There is plenty of praise for the change online as many feel it shows China’s growing confidence on the world scene. One comment read, “We really are getting stronger if we are getting naming rights now.”
But some thought the prefix “Chinese” showed where Baijiu actually stood. “Get rid of the Chinese, and just call it Baijiu, like all the other liquor types. Adding Chinese in front is so weak.”
Other netizens went wild with the idea that the Chinese Romanization system, pinyin, was going global, possibly also for exam-related reasons. “Let’s name our fruit and vegetables in pinyin from now on. No need to translate anything.” And one Weibo user wrote, “Soy milk. Is that going to be renamed Chinese Coffee?”