Miss Gioia

Friday, February 23, 2007

Forbidden Starbucks?

There has been much uproar surrounding a little store in Beijing. A famous CCTV show host has let it be known that the presence of Starbucks within the Forbidden City - yes, inside the sacred walls - is something akin to colonization. He has amassed quite a following, and there is much talk around here about whether Starbucks should be allowed to operate at this location.

Today we took some peeps to the site in question because, well, everybody's gotta see it at least once. Of course, buying a tall macchiato was the first order of business. We barely found the coffee shop. It has absolutely no signs out front, and we had to peer inside some dim windows to see if the logos on the cups were indeed round and green. Last time we were at the Forbidden City, I swear there was a small, nondescript Starbucks sign, but it has since been removed. Once inside, I was thwarted from taking a picture (probably because of all the recent hullabaloo). When we exited, macchiatos in hand, several people stopped us to ask where we got the coffee.

If anything at all is allowed to be sold inside the Forbidden City, then why not Starbucks? Is a cup of western coffee more of an affront to the sanctity of this location than all of the cheap postcards and T-shirts saying the Chinese equivalent of "I HEART Beijing"? I actually do agree that it is somewhat demeaning to be selling things inside what was the center of Chinese government (and some would argue society) from 1406 to 1911. But if you say stop selling Starbucks, then you have to say stop selling everything. It is all inappropriate - no one item more than another.

Just so I don't appear to be a culturally insensitive boob with this post, I leave you with some other pictures of the visit. And I promise, no western imperialist beverages were drunk anywhere NEAR these guys.



Blogger Johnny said...

In fact, when we visited the Forbidden City, I was so astonished that this non-descript "shack" was actually a Starbucks, I figured it was a knock-off/fake store.

Our local airport, when it was re-born in at a new location would not allow Starbucks to have a concession because they wanted "local flavor" first. It's been 8+ years and no (decent) local store has decided to take up that challenge. And, no Starbucks.

February 23, 2007 10:01 PM  

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