6 years ago it was a startling news story that really highlighted the rapid change of China and globalization’s profound reach. A symbolic act that seemed to usher in the new millennium.
Starbucks opened a store in the Forbidden City.
Now it seems a Chinese newscaster is waging a campaign to kick the global coffee chain out of China’s most revered of places.
From Yahoo News.
A news anchor for China Central Television has led an online campaign to remove Starbucks, which opened in the palace in 2000 at the invitation of its managers, who are under pressure to raise money to maintain the vast complex.
The anchorman, Rui Chenggang, wrote in a CCTV blog that Starbucks’ presence “undermined the Forbidden City’s solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture.”
I have no love for Starbucks. I might harbor a secret love for their Caramel Macchiatos, but overall I find Starbucks overpriced, pretentious, a scourge upon locally owned roasters, and, most offensive, annoying. It shocked and saddened me to hear they moved into The Forbidden City in the first place. I kinda like to think of the place as more, I don’t know, forbidden.
I support multiculturalism, but the key word there is culture. I’m all in favor of socities protecting their cultural heritage. I wouldn’t want to see a Panda Express in the lobby of the Smithsonian.
In a rush to catch up to the West China didn’t stop to think that maybe the tourists wouldn’t dig coming upon such an American presence in the middle of China’s historical ground zero. Then again, it’s a communist country without the credibility of our outstanding press. Let’s just say that no one works propaganda like the Chinese.
CCTV reported on the controversy Thursday on its national midday news, though it failed to mention that the protests were initiated by one of its own employees. The report quoted an unidentified Chinese visitor as saying tourists found it odd that Starbucks was in the palace.
Perhaps the government just wants to replace it with a Chinese own franchise. That’s the problem with doing business in China. There’s really nothing to stop the government from doing whatever it wants. While America has transparent business laws that protect companies and corporations, foreign businesses in China just have to be content playing by their rules, and be prepared for the government’s whims. But Multinational Corporations will grin and bare it.
Just look at all those lovely customers:
In defense of Starbuck’s presence in the Forbidden City, via McDonald’s, and an argument for Globalization, I found this interesting perspective from Askedgeworth:
Picture now, the Chinese person who hears that a MacDonald’s is opening in Beijing. He is curious. He goes there to find out what kind of food Americans eat. He discovers that MacDonald’s food is fun, genuinely fun. (The vast majority of customers you see at a MacDonalds in China are local people.) He does not eat at MacDonald’s every day, nor does he make hamburgers a major component of his diet. But he enjoys going to MacDonald’s and his children like it too. I have talked to a number of Chinese about MacDonald’s, and this is the story I hear over and over again.
They like American peasant food.
Globalization isn’t totally black and white. Nor can it be stopped. Starbucks are still going up all over China. What this sounds like is an attempt to score points with nationalists by cleaning up the Forbidden City while distracting them from the wave of foreign influence sweeping through China.
Nevertheless, here we are.
Can’t say I’m going to shed a tear.