There is a common misconception that any banquet hosted by the President is a state banquet. In fact, a banquet held by the President only qualifies as a state banquet when the President formally hosts a visiting head of state. In most cases, state banquets are held in the evening. Whether the President's spouse attends or not depends on whether the spouse of the visiting head of state is present. Precise protocols, fine cuisine, and live music are features of state banquets, most of which are held at the Auditorium in the Presidential Office Building or major hotels in Taipei City. In order to pay the highest respect to the foreign leader, guests not only include members of the delegation accompanying the foreign head of state, but also ambassadors to the ROC, high-ranking ROC government officials, and leaders from the private sector. These banquets are usually attended by about 80 guests.
Cuisine is a focal point of a state banquet, and many people are curious as to what sort of things are typically on the menu. The foremost consideration in selecting ingredients is whether the main guest particularly likes a certain food or does not eat specific foods. Any food, the consumption of which would affect a protected species, such as shark fin or bird's nest, is strictly avoided. Other foods that are hard to eat, such as fish with bones, unpeeled shrimp, or crabs, are also not to be selected. Special dishes that highlight Taiwan's unique culinary culture, such as local snacks and well-known dishes, have all been served in the past. In addition, the meal includes an array of seasonal vegetables and fruits.
State banquets usually start off with a pre-dinner cocktail, brief introductions of the invited guests to the heads of state, and then the banquet itself. Invited guests and dignitaries arrive at the venue about 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the event, after which they exchange pleasantries and have a pre-dinner cocktail. At this time, the two heads of state retreat to a reception room for discussions. About 10 minutes before the beginning of the banquet, a protocol officer guides the invited guests, in the order of their rank, to meet the two heads of state. Each guest is introduced to the two leaders by calling out his or her name. Then, after all guests have taken their seats, the two leaders walk into the banquet hall as The President's March is played by the band.
Once the two leaders take their places and before the state banquet begins, the national anthem of the visiting leader is played to express respect and a warm welcome. The two leaders exchange decorations, deliver remarks, and raise their glasses to toast each other either before the beginning of the banquet or at an appropriate time during the event. After the banquet begins, the guests enjoy a lovely meal and engage in conversations to a background of orchestral music. The entire banquet is held in a festive atmosphere. After the meal, the master of ceremonies at an appropriate moment invites the two leaders and all the guests to stand up for the playing of the ROC national anthem. This marks the end of the banquet, after which the President escorts the visiting head of state to the Main Entrance of the Presidential Office Building or a hotel's main gate, where they shake hands in farewell and thus mark the end of the entire state banquet.