Starbucks Forbidden Location


Hello, loyal readers. Anne had to run to an event promoting Donald “You’re Fired!” Trump’s new line of connoisseur steaks, and left me, temporary assistant editor Andrew “No-relation-to-Lester” Bangs to pen her daily entry.

Anyway, a news story we’ve been following recently has to do with a Starbucks located in the heart of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The store has sparked controversy and a plethora of news coverage speculating the location may soon close. Apparently some in the Chinese media feel that the location is disrespectful towards a place regarded as a symbol of Chinese culture.

(For what it’s worth, there’s also a KFC a few hundred yards from Stonehenge, and a Chanel boutique right on Red Square…)

What the protesters don’t explain is why it’s Starbucks in particular that is so offensive. Are they offended that any global business would open in the Forbidden City, or just Starbucks? Would an Apple store be equally as offensive? A Foot Locker? A Babies R’ Us? A Victoria’s Secret?

Well, we can probably guess the answer to the latter.

(What about Seattle’s Best Coffee Company? Would the censors recognize the difference?)

Unfairly or not, Starbucks has become a symbol of American corporate/consumer culture gone global, with all of the attendant positives and negatives, excesses and pleasures that entails… And apparently, young, moneyed, urban Chinese youth are literally lapping it up. It’s a cool place to hang out, just as it is in Denver, Vancouver, Buenos Aires, etc. Starbucks goes to great lengths to defend its business, pointing out its use of Fair Trade coffee and relatively solid employee benefits packages. Regardless, many still hold it as an example of American cultural and economic imperialism gone awry.

I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. The location does seem a bit tacky…

The question really should be about the coffee itself. I guiltily enjoy a gut-busting Starbucks frappuccino from time to time, but I’m not fooling myself that it’s “coffee.” In sheer caloric terms, it’s more like an ice cream sundae with all the fixins’.

Meanwhile, there are varieties of Chinese tea such as Puer-La and Jasmine, not to mention dozens of varieties of green tea, that are totally delicious - and with proven health benefits. Maybe someone enterprising will start a Chinese tea franchise, and open locations in Times Square, on Hollywood Boulevard, on Michigan Avenue and Main Street, USA... I'd try it.

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