In most western countries we like to boast about our “work hard, play hard” attitude towards life and getting the job done under any circumstances. However we really cannot hold a candle to the Asian business person when it comes to be dedicated to making our business successful and building partnerships.
Socialising is a great way to build those bridges of trust and respect in the western world, but it means so much more in Asia. In Australia, if someone does not want to meet for a drink after work or go to dinner, it is not a big deal. In Asia, it is not an option you must do it. In fact it can be seen as a personal insult to your Asian counterpart.
In Asia socialising means many lunches and dinners. You can expect that with whomever you may be meeting or visiting, you will be invited to have a meal, and it is not always in advance. Be prepared for this and leave plenty of time in your itinerary for socialising with your Asian contacts.
For example if I am going to Asia on a business trip for ten days, it is most likely I would be out for dinner ten nights in a row. If I spending two or three days visiting a specific business partner, I can expect to be eating lunch and dinner with them every day.
What I am trying to say is that you really should go with the flow when visiting Asia. You are in their country and their environment. They want to show you a good time and look after you so they can earn your friendship. It is rude not to oblige.
All of this said, Asians will generally respect you if you set certain boundaries in terms of what and where you socialise. You can make it clear what you are willing to do and not do. For instance, if they suggest to you about heading off to a karaoke bar or nightclub after dinner you just have to say “Thank you for the offer but that is not my scene.” They may test you, but they are going to respect your personal likes and dislikes.
In Asia socialising is a method of expressing to you that are very keen to understand you, learn from you, develop a relationship with you beyond work and hopefully become friends. It is a key part of doing business in Asia so you need to embrace it.