Scholars and practitioners alike recognize that contract formation in today's China requires more than an understanding of black letter law, but also knowledge of cultural practices. While there is much literature, however, about the legal unenforceability of contracts, the importance of guanxi (relationships), mianzi (face), and interpersonal harmony, there is little mention of eating and drinking rituals. Since time immemorial, ritual eating and drinking have legal meaning in China. These rituals often are the heart of building trust and negotiating terms in China. They are also the foundation for performance and enforcement. Often, however, these rituals involve drunkenness, which sometimes has turned fatal for contracting parties. Binge drinking is reaching epidemic proportions in China and employers, including law firms, openly recruit persons who can drink heavily. “Ganbei” is a popular toast which means to empty one's cup. This article explores what I call “ganbei contracts,” the phenomenon of eating and drinking rituals in contract formation. I first discuss current Chinese contract black letter law, then contemporary ritual eating and drinking, the ancient roots of ritual practice, and then guidelines for proper contemporary practice consonant with a rule of virtue and law.
Recommended CitationMary Szto, Contract in My Soup: Chinese Contract Formation and Ritual Eating and Drunkenness, 25 Pace Int'l L. Rev. 1 (2013)
Available at: http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/pilr/vol25/iss1/1