The first thing to bear in mind, whether you're drinking beer, wine or baiju, is that you don't sip your drink casually at a banquet. The alcoholic drink is reserved for toasting only. It's easy to absent-mindedly pick up your little beer glass or wine glass instead of the glass of tea or hot water that has been provided, but if you do, you'll likely set off another round of unplanned toasting which will lead to more toasting, and pretty soon the room is spinning like the lazy susan on the banquet table.
Just as in the West, the drinking of a toast is preceded by a short speech. The host makes the first toast of the evening. I was told that toasts come in pairs, but this means that the host will make another toast. The guest of honor does not respond to the toast right away. Once the host has kicked things off, another person may make a toast, to and for the entire table of diners, or one person can toast one other person. In that case, the toaster gets up from his chair and walks around the banquet table to the toastee, who also stands up. Short speeches are made, glasses are clinked and the toast is drunk. The toaster can challenge the toastee to empty their glass (gambei!) but if someone can't or doesn't want to drink very much, they can always say so, although in a business situation, this may be a losing tactic.
If the idea of having to participate in a drinking ritual/challenge is disconcerting for you, be reassured that the glasses are small and the beer is weaker than Canadian beer. So if you drink six toasts with beer in your glass, you've probably just had one can of beer. However it's hard to keep track because the instant your glass is empty, or even half-empty, it will be filled again.
To show respect to the person you're toasting, clink with the rim of your glass lower than the rim of their glass. (Watch the "Local Laowai" series for a demonstration of this). After I had "clinked low" a couple of times with one of my Chinese hosts, he realized this was not just a coincidence, and he was impressed that I knew about this point of etiquette.
At the banquets where I found myself being repeatedly toasted, I was able to stick with beer and avoid the baiju. Baiju is a strong distilled alcohol beverage. I've had a few sips of it (grimace) and I'm told it's an acquired taste. You can buy it in tiny little green bottles very cheaply and there are also very expensive versions.
Ross has been to two banquet luncheons since his arrival here two weeks ago. The most recent one was a birthday party put on by our neighbors. So there we were at the head table, with six adult male relatives of the host, all of them grinning at Ross and wondering how the foreigner would acquit himself. Another reason I'm glad he's here -- he can do most of the toasting honors from now on.