Yang Wenzhan, a lawyer in Beijing who is not related to the bank employee, wrote in a blog post on Monday: “If you say you don’t want to drink, that can provoke some people. But if you give in and say you’ll drink a little, then you’ve surrendered your line of defense. Afterward, when you say you’ve had enough, that will offend people.”
But the lawyer, who is abstinent, said he had never been coerced into drinking against his will. Many social crowds are formed based on drinking habits, he noted, and dinner banquets can be divided into two tables: one for those who love to drink and another for those who do so moderately or not at all.
“If you can drink and make professional connections, that will help,” he wrote. “But if you don’t have this ability, you can still make a good lawyer.”
Banquets can be an especially intimidating environment for young working women in China, who are often seated next to older executives and are expected to laugh at their jokes while being plied with alcohol, experts say.
Some employees have dealt with the pressure to drink by resorting to discreet tricks, like pouring one’s drink on the floor.
For better or worse, drunkenness is the aim of dinner banquets in China, the novelist Yan Ge wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article in November. “When it goes wrong, it can be ugly: Fights can break out; women might be abused for sport,” she wrote.
“But when it goes right, mistakes are forgiven; the diners perspire, devour, quaff and sing together, and then, only then, will business be done.”
Claire Fu contributed research from Beijing.