Half of Chinese people have an aversion to being forced to drink alcohol at banquets, a custom that is considered to be part of China's "liquor culture", according to a media survey.
The survey, conducted by China Central Television's (CCTV) Oriental Horizon program, showed that 50 percent of people disliked being forced to drink, 35 percent were neutral and 15 percent said it is a Chinese custom that should be preserved.
"Forced drinking", together with spitting, blowing one's nose without using a handkerchief, and smoking in public places, has been listed among the top 10 worst habits in a survey carried out by the China Association for Science and Technology.
Excessive drinking is not only unpopular, it can be deadly.
According to official figures released by the Ministry of Public Security, nearly 90,000 people died of road accidents in 2006, with speeding, exhaustion and drunk driving being the top three killers.
"If people were not urged to drink too much at dinner, more road accidents could be prevented", said Huang Shubo, an army officer in Beijing.
However, drinking is often a way to clinch business deals and secure favors because people are more pliable when they consume strong liquor.
It is common in China to treat guests or inspectors to big dinners to make them "feel at home" but sometimes the hospitality backfires.
In August 2006, controller Zhang Hongtao died from too much alcohol while auditing a power grid construction and transformation project in north China's Hebei Province.
People have to drink even if they do not want to, Huang said, adding that it is the friendship and the power of the boss rather than the glass that most Chinese cannot afford to turn down
"I hate drinking too much, but I don't like to embarrass my friends and superiors when they make a toast", Huang said.
"There's a limit to showing one's respect with liquor", said Ma Zhenbiao from the Beijing City Bar Association.
"If people are aware of the dangers of drink, such as driving under the influence, and still urge people to drink, they will be legally responsible for accidents that occur," said Ma Zhenbiao.
Last February, a man in east China's Zhejiang Province died after being forced to drink by colleagues, who were later brought to court and asked to make compensation.
"Pressing people to drink means ruining their health under the guise of friendship", warned Ke Qinglin, a professor with the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) General Hospital, adding that serious diseases such as high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and heart disease result from excessive drinking.
Yu Xingqian, director of the China poetry and wine culture association affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, said people may become irrational and even commit crimes if they drink too much.
"We should promote an elegant drinking culture, in which liquor is savored not swallowed and drunkenness is rejected", said Yu, adding that "vulgar practices such as urging or compelling people to drink should be disparaged."
China is one of the world's largest alcohol drinks producers. In 2005, China produced over 38 million tons of alcoholic drinks. It is estimated that the country has over 500 million drinkers.
(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2007)