A photo of a Chinese businessman and businesswoman toasting alcoholic beverages while dressed in professional attire.

A Chinese businessman and businesswoman toast alcoholic beverages in traditional workplace culture.
Image: Shutterstock

Are you planning on doing business with Chinese firms? Whether you’re visiting China or hosting in the United States, you should know a thing or two about Chinese drinking culture. The reason for that is drinking has played a big part in Chinese business dealings for years, and although that is changing with the younger Chinese generation, if you’re dealing with middle aged people or older, you might end up drinking a lot at meetings.

Meetings are traditionally held in restaurants, often over dinner, and revolve around a lot of toasts. Basically everyone is expected to toast, and everyone is expected to drink to a toast, which can result in people getting pretty drunk. The idea is to help loosen people up, allowing for a relaxed social environment where deals can be made. Of course, younger professionals make the argument that being drunk when you make a deal can result in things going poorly. It’s easy to forget promises made while drunk, and it’s easy to slip up and agree to deals you can’t or shouldn’t have made.

There’s a growing resistance to business drinking in China, though not to drinking itself. People still love to drink, but the way they’re doing it is changing. Going out for drinks with a client is probably still a good idea, but if you can manage to swing meetings in the office or at a café you might be better off. The increasing speed of communications also means deals are made faster, and sitting around for hours getting drunk isn’t going to help anyone keep up with those deals. There is also a rising dominance of deals being made based on information, not on the ability to socialize. Of course, changes like this take time, so if you’re doing business with the Chinese, make sure to read up on drinking culture, just in case.