The Chinese toast, 'gan bei', means ‘dry glass’ or ‘bottoms up’. Traditionally, you should not drink until after the first toast has been made. The guest of honour makes the first toast. Though many gan bei toasts may be made throughout the evening, you only have to drink to the bottom of your glass on the first toast – a lucky thing if you are imbibing the local spirit, baijou. Men drain their glasses and, raising and tilting them slightly, show each other that they are empty. Ladies are expected only to take a sip.
It is an important sign of courtesy for the lower ranking member of two people toasting to keep his or her glass slightly lower than that of the higher-ranking person. The greater the difference in status between the two people, the bigger the difference in height should be. You will impress your Chinese host and give him considerable ‘face’ if, before your glasses meet, you ceremoniously lower your glass in relation to his.
Be sure always to reciprocate a toast made to you. When, in 1970, President Nixon made his historic visit to China, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and his staff neglected to do this and caused considerable offence.