Drive-Thrus Come to China

While the Starbucks in the Forbidden City is getting the boot, the first drive-thru McDonald’s has landed in Beijing. And just because the Starbucks in the Forbidden City is being pressured from its location isn’t going to stop them from opening hundred more across China in the next couple of years.

China is changing big time. The bicycle is out. The drive-thru is in.

Out with the old. In with the new.

The old in this case being the Starbucks located at the Forbidden City, and the new being a two-story, drive-thru McDonald’s recently opened in Beijing. Granted that Starbucks was only 6 years old, but the fact that it is in risk of losing it’s operating permit, ending it’s brief but surreal existence within the Forbidden City, is a significant indicator that as China moves forward there will be Nationalistic backlashes along the way.

Or maybe having a Starbucks in the Forbidden City in the first place was just plain stupid.

Anyway, these two events represent the tug and pull of modern China.

BEIJING (AP) — McDonald’s Corp. opened its first drive-through in Beijing on Friday, launching a partnership with a major Chinese oil company to exploit the country’s growing taste for both cars and Western fast food.

The Beijing drive-through is the first in McDonald’s venture with China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., which McDonald’s China CEO Jeffrey Schwartz said would open 25 to 30 more in the next 12 to 18 months. Both gas stations and drive-throughs are booming as car purchases by newly affluent drivers speed China’s change from a bicycle culture to a car culture.

I find it telling that McDonald’s is opening these drive-thrus in conjunction with Chinese Oil companies. The two feed each other. The more people are convenienced needlessly in their automobiles, the more they will no longer drive. People in LA won’t even walk three blocks, they are programmed not to by endless drive-thrus and valets and satellite radio. By the way, drive-thrus didn’t turn out so well for America.

While America is slowly waking up to the true costs of cheap food and an automobile-centric culture it seems China is just getting into the game. What are we going to do as a planet when there are a billion Chinese living as wastefully as us? The planet will not take it.

I’m not arguing that we prevent the Chinese from living the same standards as us, that would be cruel, selfish, and immoral. I’m not saying we revert to third world status either. That would be impractical as well.

I’m proposing the world develops an eco-conscious alternative path to our current one. One I’m calling the Second-World. A model of living that stresses an environmentally sound approach to business, where we sustain our resources, develop alternative energy sources, and marry the GDP with a higher quality of life, and create new industries, an imaginative new approach, utilizing arts, music, leisure pursuits, tourism, and public transportation. Business for the sake of making money alone should not be idolized and exalted. Greed IS NOT good. That way of life got us nowhere but rich and unhappy and addicted to painkillers.

You reap what you sow. Right now America’s culture is prefabricated on an assembly line in some third world country and breaks the day you take it out of the box. In other words it’s crap. Imagine how creative society would be if it weren’t ran but the stuffed suits on Madison Ave but by the cats at Burning Man.

Everybody thinks Globalization and the future is about the Third World catching up to First World standards, perhaps the real trick to its success, and the planet’s survival, is the First World trimming down its own demands. Meeting the Third World halfway.

Bush originally opposed Environmental treaties because it would only apply to us while China and India were free to pollute their way into the First World. Scientists call this the “tragedy of the commons”, where a resource is plundered unnecessarily by competing fractions because each participant in the plundering was afraid that if it wasn’t going to be them to reap the benefit than someone else would, so everyone dug in until a resource is depleted.

Should we not sacrifice some of our GDP in adherence of tighter standards, creating a lower environmental impact, so that when China is ready our success and technologies could help it implement these changes? As the biggest source of waste and carbon emissions on the planet by far, can we morally argue that we won’t change because some of the countries with the lowest rate of impact (for the time being) won’t be held to our standards?

I’m not suggesting the First World should pitch itself in the dark here.


I’m just saying we should lead by example and start lowering our carbon emissions, our amount of waste, and our use of energy. Too many Americans have a Wild West mentality, a “log it or leave it” frame of mind. They believe in manifest destiny, and still think it applies, that we live in a land of endless bounty; and that to conserve our resources, or restrict our behaviors, is anti-American, is being a pinko communist.

Their thinking is myopic.


I wonder if they have the McRib in China? Or if they only release it every four years like here? Fish Fillet? Do they eat McNuggets with chop sticks? I’m kinda curious. Do they have a Royale with cheese?


3 thoughts on “Drive-Thrus Come to China

  1. I know this is quite late but having seen this pop up in a search engine while looking up an amusing quote (only hit), I noticed that you seem to have misconceptions towards America. I’m not going to try to persuade you on the matter as I am fully aware that I’m just some schmuck on the internet and happen to be an American myself. Still, you seem to have confused modern notions of Americans with those of our predecessors about 130 years ago. Simply put, Manifest Destiny was the idea that America should expand massively its share of land, but was in large part associated with the goal of “sea to shining sea”. While that line certainly does come up in the well known song (in its own country at least, I’m unaware of its propagation through the internet and earlier means), it certainly isn’t a mindset that any sizable quantity of Americans, relative to their population total, have. Indeed the first time the vast majority of Americans hear this term is during Middle School or High School history classes, depending on electives.

    You can’t really say that we have the mindset that we need to conquer all we see either: if we wanted to take a large number of lands by force, overt or otherwise, we would have done it by now. Heck, we could tecnically make Puerto Rico a 51st state at any point, and they can vote themselves into being accepted as a state as well. However, each time that the country votes on the matter, the vote comes out that they do not wish to join the US. We respect their wishes and never try anything funny. If this was back the way Europe had been fighting for many centuries, we would have claimed a great number of countries for ourselves as well. It’s true that we have been interfering with the matters of other countries, but the age of Isolationism is over, and is dying ever more quickly with the proliferation of absolute connectivity. It is entirely possible to get a satellite internet feed in Alaska, after all. Huge quantities of Americans and Europeans and Indians (not as much with the Asian or Latin countries, language barriers you know) interact with each other on a regular basis and we seem to get along fine without anybody calling in nationalistic prejudices during normal interaction.

    Anyway, that’s my two bits. We’ve been past the “wild west” ideal for a very, very long time, and the hop across the pond really shouldn’t matter that much as far as xenophobia goes, so please refrain from making generalized, sweeping statements about such a massive nation of people.

    • I appreciate your well thought out comments, but think you misunderstood my own comment which pertained to manifest destiny. I don’t mean to imply that we’re a “take it by force” nation, but that a certain segment of our citizenry believe that unlimited resources are here for the taking.

      “Too many Americans have a Wild West mentality, a “log it or leave it” frame of mind. They believe in manifest destiny, and still think it applies, that we live in a land of endless bounty”

      It had nothing to do with conquering other lands, as much as using our present land and materials foolishly. I believe we need a more simple, less consumeristic culture to survive our impact upon the Earth. And, I will posit, this goes for much of the First World, Second World, and Third World. We’re on a runaway train that’s bound to crash sooner or later. All this growth is unsustainable.

      I was merely using wild west and manifest destiny as metaphors for our current obsession with consumption — please allow a little artistic license — I’m well aware we’re not expanding our borders into Mexico or Canada or anywhere else. Well, not counting proxy borders.

      I do agree with much of your statement, just though I should clarify the intent of my article.

      But much thanks for reading and sharing. Cheers.

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