A traditional Chinese cafe has opened in the Forbidden City where a Starbucks had been. The Starbucks was forced to close from the torrent of protests and accusations of “tarnishing the historical site.”
Of course this is part of a much larger conversation about globalisation, national identities, and historical pride. Starbucks, one of the many masks of ruthless American imperialism, has set an aggressive schedule for opening new shops worldwide — including China. And China itself has set it’s sights on global brand positioning, centered around the 2008 Olympics. So where do we draw the line? Are historic sites off-limits to global chain stores? Should they be restricted to national brands or a locally-owned businesses?
Then again, if the tables were turned, I don’t I would want a big Chinese coffee shop out front of, say, Mount Rushmore. Or Buckingham Palace. Or the Taj Mahal. You know what I’m saying?