The Chinese government announced today it would start an anti-dumping, anti-subsidy probe into wine imported from Europe. It’s clearly a retaliatory move (it comes one day after the European Union placed tariffs on Chinese solar panels exported to the EU). But not everyone in China benefits from a wine war:
Chinese investors: China is the world’s fifth largest wine market by consumption. As a result, Chinese investors have poured millions of dollars into vineyards in European wine-making regions like Bordeaux, France. (For some perspective, a Hong Kong firm that sells French properties said last year that it closed six multi-million dollar deals between Chinese investors and vineyards in Bordeaux in 2011). It’s unclear how severe the tariffs would be, but if applied, they could apply to over three dozen Chinese-run vineyards in France.
Wine consumers: No doubt China’s affluent business leaders and government officials would feel a rise in prices; wine is a popular business-related gift and flows freely at lavish banquets and business dinners. (Then again, the policy serves the government’s ongoing campaign against corruption and excessive spending.)
Domestic winemakers: Local Chinese winemakers struggling to compete with foreign vintners could benefit. China is now the world’s sixth largest wine producer, ahead of Australia, Chile and South Africa. Started in the 1990s, the industry is now dominated by large firms that make middling wines, like Changyu, Greatwall and Dynasty. There are also some high-end vintners including Grace Vineyard in Shanxi province and Silver Heights in northwest China.
Wine shops: Chinese authorities haven’t said when the investigation will begin, and so far, Chinese wine consumers haven’t flinched. (France’s trade ministry, on the other hand, called the move “inappropriate and reprehensible.”) Still, wine shops in Beijing and Shanghai are holding out hope that customers will scramble to purchase European imported wine before prices go up. “Maybe the news of the pending wine tariff has not traveled fast enough,” Jui Qin, a saleswoman at Vinolia Wine Shop in Beijing told the New York Times.