The nightlife scene in China is evolving quickly, absorbing and copying styles, fashions, and musical cultures from the around the globeand sprinkling in a few uniquely Chinese characteristics. The nightlife capital is Shanghai, where sky-high lounges created by international designers and megaclubs with imported DJs cater to an affluent mix of locals and expats. Beijing, too, is rapidly developing its once moribund after-dark scene, with a swath of glitzy venues opening in the pre-Olympic period, many of them imported from Shanghai and Hong Kong. Beijing's own unique strength is its thriving live-music scene, ranging from indie rock to hip-hop and punk.
As disposable wealth increases across China's east coast and in inland centers such as Chengdu, Xi'an, Kunming, and Chongqing, new bars and clubs are opening (and closing) at a dizzying pace. And this is, in some way, the charm of a night out in metropolitan China: Shanghai and Beijing apart, the scene is still disarmingly immature, but infused with passionate energy and optimistic hedonism.
Some things are different in China, however. In many cities, bars demand a high reservation fee for tables, especially those in the best see-and-be-seen spots. The most popular bars are increasingly located in carefully planned bar districts, often adjacent to shopping malls. Karaoke is also an intrinsic part of an evening's entertainment, especially if you are partying with local friends. But wherever you are, avoid the temptation to join a bai jiu drinking session. This local firewater has been the ruin of many an unsuspecting foreigner.