Danger on the Dance Floor: Dealing with Trouble at Chinese Bars

Danger on the Dance Floor: Dealing with Trouble at Chinese Bars
Jul 08, 2013 By Bo Brennan , eChinacities.com

Recently, here in Shanghai, a Frenchman became embroiled in an unfortunate situation outside of a bar. Seven Chinese guys decided, for whatever reason, to attack him en masse and leave him severely injured and then make a run for it before the police showed up (see video here). The investigation is still ongoing but the situation does prompt us to think about how safe we really are when we are going out and drinking until the wee hours. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only story of foreigners getting attacked I’ve heard – in fact, a similar thing happened to a friend of mine—so it’s important to keep a few tips in mind next time you hit up a bar or club in China. 

Danger on the Dance Floor: Dealing with Trouble at Chinese Bars
Photo: flickr.com

1) First, be aware of all the criminal/fuerdai bars and clubs
This one might be a little obvious but it merits mentioning, especially so if you are new to China. Generally speaking, China is a fairly safe place so it’s easy to forget that there are criminals and gangsters and thugs that operate in every city in the country. We just don’t happen to see them very often. Even if there aren’t any actual criminals involved/around/owning the bar, it’s not unheard of for someone to pass a hong bao to the police to make sure the investigation goes nowhere.

This is especially true in smaller 3rd and 4th tier cities where expat numbers are smaller and reliable foreign-friendly bars are sparse. Even in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing, you still have to be mindful of potentially serious encounters you may run into in predominantly Chinese clubs. This is especially so if you’re with a Chinese girl. It’s unfortunate but it’s always something to keep in mind. That being said, bigger cities have a larger, more developed foreign bar scene, so, if nothing else, there is safety in numbers. Also, though this surely happens to more guys, it’s important for girls to remember that you could very well get beaten up by a group of guys if they believe they will get away with it.

2) Get out of the situation
This one is a bit obvious too, but bear with me. You are not going to win a fight against seven dudes. It’s just…not going to happen. I have literally never seen a one-on-one fight outside of a bar in China ever; every single time it’s been 1 vs. 3, 1 vs. 4, or 1 vs. 7 etc. In the video in the link above, there are dudes crawling out of the woodworks to blast this French dude.

I know this is not always possible, but even if you suspect there is an inkling of confrontation, be prepared to get out of Dodge. Not only that, but there is something especially important most foreigners usually don’t consider in this situation. If you– or the bouncers or even the attackers themselves – manage to hurt one of your antagonists, it will be used as evidence against you that you instigated the fight. This may or may not be true, but it will certainly be used against you, even if you where defending yourself. Actually, this is what happened to my friend. One of the bouncers injured one of the four guys attacking my friend, and the injured guy wanted to sue the bar and my friend for his injury. I can’t even make up this kind of stuff.

3) Take a video
These next three are linked. If you get into a fight, or even if you just witness a fight outside of a bar you’ll/they’ll need the evidence. That’s why everyone knows what happened in the story above; a quick thinking dude took a video of the attack providing physical evidence of the encounter. Now, say what you will about the effectiveness of Chinese police, but it will be a lot harder to refute the story with actual video evidence of the encounter. Even if the police don’t bother with your evidence, there are still ways to use videos to your advantage. This brings me nicely to my next point…

4) Tell all the foreign expat sites that will listen
Squeaky wheel gets the kick, my friends. There are plenty of foreign language expat websites in many cities around China (this one included). We writers in the expat blogosphere need this information and the louder a ruckus one causes, the more likely you’ll get some kind of compensation or, hopefully at the very least, some sort of resolution from your incident. One of the last things that the Chinese government wants is a story criticizing the crack police forces in their fair city. These stories bring in a lot of readership (as they should) and if you get enough people angry or worried enough, then it becomes a much bigger issue than just a simple bar fight. To escalate it a bit further…

5) Contact your embassy
If all else fails, you’ll need to get in contact with your embassy. The embassy needs to know of incidents like these, even if it seems like just another bar fight. They may or may not be able to help very much, but they will record the incident. Governments are interested in the safety of their citizens, and if incidents like the situation with our unfortunate Frenchman above happen enough, they’ll be able to leverage that against Chinese authorities quoting all of their recorded evidence. You may not get compensated by the people who attacked you, but, if it’s any satisfaction, you’re helping create a safer environment for foreigners living and working in China.


I’ve been in a lot of bars, and sometimes messes just happen before you even know you’re in one, but it should go without saying that you shouldn’t try and instigate or escalate any situation. Remember, you’re going to be outnumbered, even if you think it’s only one dude.

Granted, I certainly don’t think there is an embryonic Boxer rebellion happening in China now, but keep these things in mind when you’re out slamming Jaeger and then have some “friction on the dance floor”.

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Keywords: Chinese bars


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I rarely go to bars but with the increasing number of cctv, incidents such as these are getting rare nowadays.

Oct 13, 2020 10:05 Report Abuse



Chinese bars are ripoffs to begin with: go to a store and hang out in a well lit park; just don't cause or be a "public disturbance"

Oct 27, 2015 05:49 Report Abuse



This wouldn't be an issue if Chinese "men" were men and could actually have a fight one on one instead of with 8-10 of their friends so they don't lose face.

Jul 23, 2013 17:55 Report Abuse



I guess I won't go out anymore..or I should go out with a gang of guys..

Jul 12, 2013 20:21 Report Abuse



Yes........I was working in the French Consulate in Guangzhou...few years ago. The foreigner will always be wrong...that's how we have few citizens in jail...one of them was just at the wrong place at the wrong time..with the wrong people around...got arrested with a Russian....russian got 2 years (russians are used to such things)...when the family of the chinese guy who died during the struggle asked for money...they paid...but us french, we are just to trsuting in the justice, and the family of that poor french student thought that everything will be okay....he end up with a 13 years jail sentence...that have to be done here in China. Getting in a fight with a local here in China is just never ending well for the expat...whatever the reason is, the foreigner will be baimed for it! If you go on the link to see the video...guys are writing comments saying that the GF of the french guy was probably chinese...so does that excuse the all thing? damn...

Jul 09, 2013 14:22 Report Abuse



Stuff happens in bars, yah know. The only problem I ever had in China was a bouncer in Suzhou who apparently had some problem with me dancing provocatively with an American girl so he walked up behind me and started punching me in the back. Head taller than me and a lot more weight, I turned around and smiled at him which confused him long enough for me to get away. Otherwise, the only problem I had was a drunken Dutchman who started wagging a finger in my face out of the blue so I tossed him back about 15 feet. More surprised that I met an uncool Dutchman than anything jaja

Jul 09, 2013 09:00 Report Abuse



I live in Shenzhen and there is one place in particular that is notorious for always having fights. It's simply because it primarily consists of men in their 20's who are like a "Two can Van Damme", they basically think they're rock hard after a couple of pints and start running their mouth. It's usually the same people involved over and over again. Foreigners being targeted for a shoeing for no reason at all is very very rare, it mostly happens when they start acting like a moron when they've had a drink.

Jul 08, 2013 12:58 Report Abuse



what is that place...so that I never go there.....(in SZ aswell...)

Jul 09, 2013 14:23 Report Abuse



Ireland, England, Germany, France, Italy, etc etc there are 2 pint punks in every country. U.S. is one of the worst. I worked in bars in the U.S. There was a fight every night, 2 or 3 on Saturday and Sunday.

Jul 14, 2013 00:27 Report Abuse



Seriously I live in Shenzhen too, where is this place so I can avoid it...

Aug 06, 2013 16:24 Report Abuse



I'm certain if the victim was Chinese they wouldnt have toched him. It's pure rascism.

Jul 08, 2013 12:44 Report Abuse



It's probably not even if the victim was Chinese or not as much as what race he was.

Jul 09, 2013 08:35 Report Abuse



before the doors open for people to come in to china what was the biggies country in the world for racism? America how man blacks was killed on the past and how many black Africans that come to America was killed, I am not defending china as racism is behind your back in china people will talk about you and not to your face and if you don't speak Chinese that will make fun of you but if a Chinese go to other counties and we make fun of them they will try and sue you. i hate and love every one equal people are people and we need to learn that if one day some aliens was to come for other planet and invade and want to kill all humans what would we do kill each other.

Jul 11, 2013 13:44 Report Abuse



News flash: a lot of white Americans have been killed by criminals, not just the black ones.

Jul 14, 2013 00:25 Report Abuse



when chinese people get attacked overseas, it makes international news. when foreigners are attacked or even killed, it barely makes the news. i'll say it again chinese are safer in foreign countries than foreigners are in china. in china, you are a target and there is no rule of law. if you are foreigner and there is no video then you are automatically in the wrong.

Jul 08, 2013 08:39 Report Abuse



Sad but true crimo.......

Jul 08, 2013 09:32 Report Abuse



yes well said but I say again its the Americans that start most of the shit in china, its even hard to work with them as they are all Septic Tank, Yank all full of shit. they all think no one can come up to their level. as they went to the moon but only 30% of yanks believe this is true any way.

Jul 11, 2013 13:33 Report Abuse



Certainly. Drunken Europeans who snottily act like the entire world is their colony are unheard of in China. Only Americans cause problems. Right.

Jul 13, 2013 21:29 Report Abuse



Wow, sounds like someone has really Yanked your chain. 300 million people in the U.S. Piece of advice: they're not all the same. Sorry, you've been hanging around the wrong septic tank.

Jul 14, 2013 00:23 Report Abuse