Drinking to get ahead in China

Among some Chinese, binge drinking may be the key to that next promotion
Alex Ballingall

Conventional wisdom tells us binge drinking is an indulgence typically reserved for the young and irresponsible. In Canada, that seems to be the case. Most binge drinkers are between 15 and 24 years old, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal. But not in China, where those most likely to binge are men between the ages of 35 and 44, according to a recent study that surveyed nearly 50,000 people. On top of that, the study found that both drinking frequency and quantity increase with age. On average, Chinese men who drink consume 47.8 grams of pure alcohol every day, just shy of the 50-gram cut-off for the study’s definition of binge drinking. Such drinking in China, the study concludes, has reached “epidemic proportions.”

Yichong Li, the study’s lead author, speculates that Chinese business culture is largely to blame. Peter Chi, a school principal in northeastern China, feels similarly. “If I drink, it doesn’t necessarily help me get promoted. But if I don’t, it’s less likely that I will be. So I must drink, even if it’s not pleasant at all,” he told Britain’s Guardian. Job advertisements are even known to list “good drinking capacity” as a required credential. It seems binge drinking in China is largely a white-collar affair.