The Man Who Cast Starbucks from the Forbidden City

Travel Blog  •  Jim Benning  •  07.19.07 | 10:06 AM ET

imageWhy did Starbucks close its outlet in Beijing’s Forbidden City? In part, because of the campaign launched by a popular Chinese TV news anchor on his blog. His name is Rui Chenggang. He travels the globe and speaks near perfect English, according a terrific profile in the Los Angeles Times. Seven months ago, Rui wrote that the Starbucks outlet “undermined the Forbidden City’s solemnity and trampled over Chinese culture.” His post prompted a widespread response. Interestingly, he said he still drinks Starbucks coffee—there are well over 200 outlets in China—he just doesn’t think the chain should be hawking lattes in such a sacred Chinese site.


Rui worries that modernization will lead to homogenization in China. He said many people are now asking how the Chinese will preserve their country’s identity.

Writes Mitchell Landsberg:

His answer, of course, is the Forbidden City—that, as much as anything, defines China’s cultural heritage.

“I was having lunch with an Indian person today, and I said, ‘Would you Indians allow a Starbucks to be inside the Taj Mahal?’ And he said, ‘No, of course not, we would never let that happen.’ “

“The Forbidden City,” Rui added, “is not an airport.”

Related on World Hum:
* So Long, Forbidden City Starbucks. Help Us Pick a New Wonder.
* Seven Wonders of the Shrinking Planet

Photo by [Satbir] via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

Tags: Asia, China

3 Comments for The Man Who Cast Starbucks from the Forbidden City

Adam Bray in Mui Ne, Vietnam 08.14.07 | 12:39 AM ET

Although China’s identity issues have far more to do with internal politics than external influences, I can understand the sentiment of not wanting starbucks in the forbidden city. However, if they allow other peddlers in the site, it’s only fair to re-examine them as well.

Phyllis Burns Keeton 01.03.08 | 3:05 PM ET

I recently came back from China, with a stay in Beijing and a tour of the Forbidden City.  Starbucks inside the Forbidden City would be awful and bordering on sacrilege.  The Forbidden City is a beautiful place and awe inspiring.  Starbucks would be tawdy commerialization of a wonderous historical site.  Peddlers are not allowed within the Forbidden City, although you will certainly find the peddlers everywhere outside the walls with some interesting items for sell and law-enforcement officers beating them, literally, off you on every corner.  I got a wonderful kite right across the street in the Square before entering the gates.

Aggie 01.16.08 | 2:09 PM ET

I don’t think Starbucks has a big enough influence to change the Chinese Culture there are a lot other things that might be able to change the culture but not Starbucks.

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