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Starbucks, The Forbidden City, and so forth


roddy
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Background reading from CNN and the People's Daily

A couple of friends had asked me recently what I thought of there being a Starbucks in the Forbidden City, but I didn't really make a connection. Then yesterday I catch something on the news about it, and today I come across the above two reports. . .

I've been there twice in the last few months, so I'm going to go out on a limb and venture an opinion or two.

LONG LIVE STARBUCKS FORBIDDEN CITY BRANCH!!!!!!

Visual pollution? Rubbish. Take a look at the attached photograph. Can you see the Starbucks? No, you can't. You could quite easily not know it's there until you walk in the door. It's not like they knocked down the emperors bedroom to make way for sofas. It's tiny, maybe 20, 25 square meters. Basically it's just a counter, some stools at the window and that's it. Commercialism? 4/5ths of the room it's in is a souvenir shop selling tacky gifts and overpriced VCD documentaries - is that a part of the traditions of the Forbidden City? I think not. Less affluent domestic tourists are already virtually priced out of the Forbidden City in summer when the ticket price rockets to what - 80Y? - something like that - so if commercial income keeps those prices down (and that's a big if) then it's no bad thing.

So, who's going to disagree with me :mrgreen:

Roddy

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I think the thing to remember here, is that it was the Forbidden City who asked Starbucks to set up shop there, and not the other way round. In any event, the argument is all a bit silly if you ask me. If Starbucks is forced out, it's only going to be replaced by something else just as bad, if not worse.

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Since when people started to replace their cup of tea with coffee.

They sell tea too :wink:

I can't help but see this as a kind of sad knee-jerk reaction against anything foreign in close proximity to 'traditional Chinese culture' - which, when you look at the degree of Chinese commercialism present at places like the Forbidden City, Great Wall and Summer Palace, is quite ironic. There'd be nowhere near this much of a reaction if it was a Chinese chain or individual operator (is UBC / 上岛咖啡 Chinese?) doing exactly the same thing.

Guardian article also

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Oh, well, anyone happens to know a branch of 永和豆浆 in Buckingham? Or maybe some vendors selling 臭豆腐 there? I appreciate your information in advance. :mrgreen:

Take a look at the attached photograph. Can you see the Starbucks? No, you can't.
That's like requesting all of us to identify a bowl-sized speckle on one's face from thousands of miles away without any intention of offering binoculars. And it is indeed sweet. :mrgreen:
Visual pollution? Rubbish.
oh but if i remember correctly it was close to one of the toilets ...
Now you are talking. This stuckbucks with no doubts generates AIR pollution by contaminating the original toilet smell. Although with no confident proofs, I thought a mixture of these smells could possibly bring hallucinations to many visitors approaching that area. :wink:

EDIT: BTW, roddy, keep up with your 八荣八耻 learning, I hate but have to say that your formerly firm belief of communism is kind of fading away... :lol:

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Smell? No, no, this is one of the fabled 5-star toilets. No odors allowed, except perhaps that of perfumed toilet paper.

Fair enough, it's not a close-up photo, but the point is - unless you are standing next to it, you really wouldn't notice it. The signs you can see in some of the photos appearing next to newspaper articles aren't there any more.

Not aware of a 永和豆浆 at Buckingham Palace, but there's a 煎饼 vendor just inside the door of the British Museum though.

Seriously though, if Mr 永和豆浆 wants to set up at any of the UK's historical attractions he's welcome to as far as I'm concerned, as long as its not too obtrusive and he can leave everything in the condition he found it when he moved in.

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Not aware of a 永和豆浆 at Buckingham Palace, but there's a 煎饼 vendor just inside the door of the British Museum though.

For the record, there is no 永和豆浆 and 煎饼 at the Buckingham Palace and the British Museum respectively. We do have American hotdog vendor in front of the museum though. :mrgreen:

I know the museum quite well because it's just 5 minutes walk from my office. (sh)

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From that Guardian article:

"I really loathe them. The introduction to every site says, 'Made possible by American Express'. It is as if the Mona Lisa had a label saying, 'Made possible by the People's Bank of China',” Mr Rui said. "But please don't interpret this as an act of nationalism. It is just about we Chinese people respecting ourselves. I actually like drinking Starbucks coffee. I am just against having one in the Forbidden City."

I actually sympathize with what this guy is saying. A fine line should be drawn between opportunistic money making versus commercializing a historic national treasure by setting up shop there. If I was a tourist, I would loathe visiting places that are too commercialized. But there should be no double standard if Chinese businesses are also setting up shop at the Forbidden City.

Starbucks is a socially conscious company. They devote a lot of money for environmental purposes. But in my personal opinion which many may disagree with, their coffee is not really that great for the price that they are worth. I guess a well known company with a chic brand can get away with charging high prices since people associate the Starbucks brand as "hip" or "cool".

It's so hard to not to miss Starbucks in London - they exist everywhere!

Starbucks is a coffee lover's paradise in New York City. There seems to be one on almost every other block in Manhattan. They do generate a lot of business though (usually packed on weekday mornings and weekends). The convenience for clientele generated by these locations is a shrewd strategy of Starbucks. Add a store here and there, and people who are in a rush would want to satisfy their hunger and thirst first over price.

I think the perception that many people get from Starbucks is that it is too available to the point where it appears "common", a trait that probably wouldn't fit well with the Forbidden City's image.

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But in my personal opinion which many may disagree with, their coffee is not really that great for the price that they are worth.

I couldn't agree more. :wink:

Do people actually go there to enjoy their coffee, atmosphere or they simply follow the crowd? :conf

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Do people actually go there to enjoy their coffee, atmosphere or they simply follow the crowd?

I lunch at starbucks two or three times a week. It's coffee is not the greatest but it is not a bad place, food / drink and service are reasonably nice and the prices are not unreasonable.

I think the starbucks at the palace is discreet enough. As to "stop telling Chinese how to feel", I do think that not every chinese feels the same. But then who really cares if there isn't a coffee shop in the palace?

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I think the fact is that Starbucks is perceived as a symbol of Americanization, and that is the real problem (although I strongly disagree with the “Americanization” characterization). But the symbolism doesn’t stop there.

The Forbidden City and Beijing were places where barbarians throughout Asia and even Europe groveled there way to the “center” (中央) to show their subservience to the Chinese-oriented cosmos. So, symbolically speaking, from the point of view of re-creating a Chinese-dominated international political order, Starbucks is totally inappropriate.

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Mr. Rui has an interesting concept of what is and is not nationalism. I'm not sure that a "Made possible by the Bank of China" sponsorship sign at the Mona Lisa or at some US national monument would raise too many hackles - international corporations sponsor lots of stuff in the US.

What strikes me as funny is that the anti-foreign-corporation sentiment comes out of the mouth of an insular CCTV anchor, while the cosmopolitan Phoenix TV host Rose Luqiu has no problem with Starbucks, per se, but rather the whole consumerism aspect link.

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Come on, that's not the point whether there should be a starbucks or other Cafe' in the forbidden city. If it have to be forced out, just because it's not the traditional Chineselism,it's more western. And the forbidden city is the symbol of the traditional Chineselism.That's the track of two different culture.

Why not after understanding the culture shockers and come back to talk about this question?

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I really should be working, but . . .

Speaking to why people go to Starbucks in general - for me the number one draw is probably reliability. If I'm in some random place and I can see two cafes, one a name I don't recognize and the other a Starbucks I'll go to the Starbucks. It might not be fantastic, but I trust the company to be reliable enough to give me a drinkable beverage and a seat in a temperature controlled environment, without the Carpenters playing at full blast. If it's somewhere I live or work I can and do explore the other options over time, but elsewhere it's not worth the effort. Reliable acceptability wins over a random result.

For Chinese people in general, I guess there is a bit of a cachet associated with it - it's a premium brand, if you like, and for some it's a lifestyle choice, along with clothes, cars, and handbags. But at the same time, even Chinese people want a seat and a drink sometimes.

But then who really cares if there isn't a coffee shop in the palace?

In the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. If it's not replaced with something similar then I will no doubt miss my iced tea or hot coffee, depending on which season I next go in. And if it is replaced with something similar then - what was the point of replacing it.

More worrying is the influence of a combination of nationalism, online opinion and minor celebrities.

For me it comes down to a couple of simple questions. Should there be a vendor of hot and cold beverages located inside the Forbidden City. Given the size of the place and the lack of restraint on the part of Beijing's climate, I think the answer is a clear yes. Obviously it needs to be unobtrusive, but yes. Given that, should the vendor be selected on a proven ability to reliably supply hot and cold beverages to take away, or the nationality of the vendor's owners?

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But in my personal opinion which many may disagree with, their coffee is not really that great for the price that they are worth.

I see there are those here that know their coffee.

The quality of Starbuck's coffee in China is definitely lower than in the US. I suppose they are mixing in some cheap stuff at some point. So, for all you Starbuck's lovers out there, I just want you to know you are getting gipped. U.B.C. is better or DIO. I even had a cup of coffee at a hostel once that was better than Starbuck's, sorry I forgot the name of it though.

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Never had Starbucks in the states, so I can't comment, but I find the coffee here drinkable - I'm no connoisseur though.

My problem with UBC is that it isn't reliable - can be fine one visit and then vile the next. Not sure if they franchise their shops or what, but they don't have the consistency (even if it's consistent mediocrity) that Starbucks seems to achieve. Still, your mileage may vary.

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