February 2, 2007
Written by C.N.
In recent years, it’s no surprise that American culture and American-style capitalism have pervaded many areas of Chinese society. Has this “invasion” gone too far? This is the question being asked right now as many Chinese are pressuring managers of the Forbidden City in Beijing to close a Starbucks cafe that’s located inside its walls because of complaints that it tramples on Chinese tradition and culture:
The Forbidden City, built in 1420, is a 178-acre complex of villas, chapels and gardens that was home to 24 emperors before the end of imperial rule in 1911. It is China’s top tourist attraction, drawing some 7 million visitors a year. . . . 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.” Starbucks defended the operation of its palace outlet. “Starbucks appreciates the deep history and culture of the Forbidden City and has operated in a respectful manner that fits within the environment,” the company said in a written statement. . . .
Feng said the decision will be made as part of a palace renovation that already has seen one-third of its shops removed. . . . The renovation, due to last through 2020, is meant to restore the palace to its imperial-era appearance. Plans call for tearing down a five-story museum and other modern buildings that disrupt the original layout.
I suppose this sort of reaction was inevitable — the march of American capitalism into the Middle Kingdom was not going to be without conflicts. Change never occurs without resistance. In fact, this most recent development fits within an emerging movement in China that increasingly emphasizes traditional elements of Chinese history and culture. We’ll just have to wait and see to what extent this nascent movement succeeds in beating back, or at least slowing, the irresistible march of capitalism.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Pressure to Close Starbucks in Forbidden City" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/02/pressure-to-close-starbucks-in-forbidden-city/> ().
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