Forcing one to drink can’t be a test of friendship

By Li Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/14 20:03:41

Illustration: Peter C. Espina/GT

A friend of mine spent his Chinese Lunar New Year's day in hospital this year, because he was urged to drink Kweichow Moutai, the famous Chinese liquor. After recklessly guzzling almost half liter, he went into a coma due to alcohol poisoning and ended up in the emergency room. My poor friend missed the entire Spring Festival.

For many foreigners, such an incident may be beyond imagination, and include a shock factor. Why do some Chinese people always force others to drink? How is drinking linked to sincerity and good faith? Well, welcome to the Chinese drinking culture.

As an old saying goes, "In wine there is truth." Some Chinese people tend to believe that under the influence, people may reveal their true beliefs and feelings which would not be expressed when they are sober. 

As a result, when people are urging their friends to drink, they may say: "If you don't drink up, you are not my true friend!" It sounds they could only be honest and open to each other when they are dead-drunk.

In another type of situation, people who hold more power force their subordinates to drink. They would say: "Drink this up, and then I will promise you your promotion." It is more like forced persuasion or even a threat. In China, urging people to drink is like a "game of thrones." The domineering would force others to drink up so as to show off their power, while the pliable tend to yield. They use empty bottles to tell the strong: "See, I keep drinking and don't care sacrificing my health for you."

But things are gradually changing. The number of Chinese people forcing others to drink seems to be going down. 

The Chinese drinking culture is set for a transformation. According to a survey of 109,441 Chinese conducted by the China Youth Daily's Social Investigation Center, 84 percent said they were not fan of the drinking culture in China. 

The long tradition seems to be on the wane, reflecting a change in an important aspect of China's material culture. 

On one hand, as living standards improve, Chinese people pay more attention to their health. More people are choosing tea over liquor as their daily beverage. Instead of sitting at the table for the night, people now prefer healthier lifestyles. On the other hand, Chinese people have realized that drinking culture may provide opportunities for the undeserving who can get what they want by pleasing those who insist that they drink. This is not only unfair to the deserving but also undermines ethical conduct.

Nowadays, Chinese people have developed more decent drinking habits. 

Those who risk their lives drinking heavily are not the so-called heroes anymore, and those who always urge others to drink may be gradually isolated by their friends. More and more Chinese people enjoy having only a few drinks and chat over the cup. Taking small sips and slowly tasting liquor seems more enjoyable.  

In addition, real friendship cannot be measured by how much alcohol is consumed. Neither can bottles of liquor build relations among people. Instead, they only hurt people's feelings and health. When people are sober again, the ecstasy and promises disappear. 

After all, true friends are those who care about your health, not those who urge you to drink.

Take my poor friend. After he got out of hospital, he completely forgot who forced him to drink at the table. When he was blind drunk and almost choked on his vomit, all he remembered was those who loyally stayed by his side.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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