Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Starbucks in the Forbidden City

I was just reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about a web crusade started by one Chinese blogger, to remove the Starbucks that sits in China's Forbidden City. I am trying to find a link to the article, but the WSJ doesn't allow free reading online, and this article is from Jan 19th. It's times like this where I miss being a college student and having free access to all those great search engines like Lexis Nexis. Let me see what I can find for you.

The point was, it was interesting that one person's personal opinion became a national agenda.

Tony Ip, the China general manager of WPP Group PLC's G2 Relationship Marketing (that title is long and unnecessary here) said, "When bloggers get a chance to talk to the CEO of Starbucks, they will want to show their power. Then an individual consumer's point of view can become a public agenda."

That last sentence there is really striking. That's incredibly empowering and scary at the same time. The article notes that China is a country with the second most Internet users, after the US. I didn't know that. How startling. The author of the blog said, "Blogging is giving ordinary grassroots Chinese people a chance to express themselves." Which is true. But if bloggers are getting up in arms about a coffee shop, imagine the power they might have if they actually put it to a better use, like for some social justice issues. And they are young bloggers (The Chinese man was 29), so perhaps the hope for generation next to care about issues like globalization and consumerism still exist. The blogger says he is a regular Starbucks customer and his goal was not to drum up anti-American sentiment:
"This became an issue because Starbucks is a symbol of Western popular culture," he says. "The question is, how do we absorb and embrace the Western world without losing our own identity. This is an issue that everybody is thinking about. I just happened to write about it."

What do you all think about this?

1 comment:

one girl said...

I'm with the guy who wants to remove Starbucks. It's completely ridiculous that the damn place is even there to begin with.

It scares me when foreigners try to "be American" if you will (like putting Starbucks in the FC). It always seems to me like they take the worst possible aspects of America (McDonalds or Starbucks for very basic examples) and worship them.

It scares me that people think that this is all that America has to offer.

The even scarier part is sometimes I think they're right!