Thursday, July 19, 2007

The man who kicked Starbucks out of the Forbidden City

Finally someone has done something about this. Next is the Starbucks at the Great Wall and KFC and Pizza Hut at the Pyramids!

BEIJING - He is 29 years old, a suave world traveller who speaks near flawless, American-accented English and enjoys the occasional coffee from Starbucks.

This is the description the Los Angeles Times gives to the man who has kicked Starbucks out of the Forbidden City – CCTV news anchor, Rui Chenggang.

Rui has an audience estimated at 100 million, and seven months ago when he complained on his blog that the presence of a Starbucks "undermined the Forbidden City's solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture," there were plenty who took notice.

It was as if he had opened the valve on an espresso machine. Reaction from Chinese readers poured forth, hissing and full of steam.

Many people, it seemed, were offended by the presence of a store selling half-caf mocha frapuccinos in the most hallowed spot in China, a place where 24 emperors had ruled in almost unimaginable grandeur for nearly 500 years.

By the next day, Rui says, the item had been read by half a million people and generated "thousands, if not tens of thousands" of e-mail responses".

Last Friday, under pressure from the government, the Seattle-based company closed its small shop inside the Forbidden City, having rejected an offer to continue selling Starbucks coffee under the Forbidden City "brand."

"It is not our custom to have stores that have any other [name]," Starbucks vice president for Greater China, Eden Woon, was quoted by the Beijing Youth Daily as saying.

Rui, a rising media star who is used to having people listen to him, was not at all surprised by his own clout.

"It was well within my expectations," he said in an interview Monday, sipping orange juice in the lounge of a hotel near the CCTV studios. "It was just a matter of when and a matter of how."

Starbucks has more than 240 stores in mainland China, including 57 in Beijing.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Travel Light Reading
One of my favourite travel books about China is Red Dust A Path Through China by Ma Jian

Red Dust A Path Through China
An extraordinary travelogue traces a young Chinese artist's journey to the westernmost border of China--a journey that lasted for three years and took him to parts of his homeland that Westerners have never seen--and vividly brings to life the places and people that he encountered along the way.

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