One of the unique features of a Chinese nightclub, disco or bar is, the Westener often gets free drinks sponsored by other customers. Some popular explanations include that the Chinese want to impress the Westener so the Westerner stays with this particular Chinese guy. From the Western perspective paying drinks for an unknown person is a weak gesture. Thanks for the drink, have a nice evening, bye. In China however Western guys not only get one drink, they can get completely drunk without spending a single mao. But what is the Chinese perspective on this matter? Why do Chinese guys buy drinks for Westerners in a nightclub, bar or disco? On a side note, it’s almost always the guys who pay drinks for you. One of the very few occasions where a female gave me a drink, she later turned out to be a professional. This was a woman from a mixed group of Chinese, not a single woman.
Babi 2 Club in Chengdu, one of the best Chinese clubs I know.
To answer this question we have to look at Chinese values for a moment. Money ranks very high in the Chinese value system. Like it or not, a big wallet in China is an indicator of your importance in the society. In fact Chinese people mostly believe all white faces are rich. Surveys among Chinese women have show that money ranks among the most important factors for choosing a partner.
What does that have to do with sponsored drinks in China? If have accepted drinks more then once during your time in China, you may have observed something interesting. Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. This Chinese guy just offered you a drink. You accepted and he leaves the table. Only you and the ladies are left there at the table. What this guy did is, he just showed that he is economically superior and you are dependent on his beer (in a economical sense). While it may sound strange from the Western point of view, it makes quite sense from the Chinese viewpoint. What can be done?
If you plan to visit a certain location more than once you should consider buying your own drinks. Otherwise the lovely Chinese females may come to the conclusion that you really are a beggar and have no financial power. Another good idea is to visit two different places and dedicate one to get drunk, where you accept any drink offered, and another place where you pay for yourself and have a higher status.
So how to handle the situation? The best case is to have your own drink. The second best is the accept the drink immediately, smile, and say “Thanks dude”. The worst case is to say “no” for a while, only to give in afterwards and accept the drink. In this case you really subordinated yourself to the other guy and appear to be his tool. Don’t do that. I hope I could give some insight on Chinese nightlife to you. If you like to add something, feel free to comment. Cheers!