Starbucks closed down in July after seven years inside the crimson-walled Forbidden City. A state-owned coffee shop opened in late September in the exact location. You see it in the photo. It has no outdoor sign.
A Xinhua story said the coffee shop serves “not only coffee, but also traditional Chinese beverage such as tea.” (I thought Starbucks served tea, too!) It said the shop would feature pictures of Chinese culture.
It quoted a deputy curator of the Forbidden City, Li Wenru, who said: “We want to provide tourists with a package of products relating to imperial palace and Chinese culture.”
Frankly, the new coffee shop doesn’t look much different than the old one. A sign inside says it servers “China time-honored brand” products. Prices are the same as at a Starbucks, maybe even a little higher. An expresso is 30 renminbi, or just about $4 U.S.
Early this year, the television newscaster for CCTV, Rui Chenggang, drew about 500,000 signatures to his online petition demanding that Starbucks be kicked out of the Forbidden City. He said the presence of the huge U.S. coffee chain “trampled on Chinese culture” in a unique heritage site. Here’s a story I wrote and a BBC one.
While Starbucks is gone from the Forbidden City, another icon of U.S. capitalism is everywhere. American Express has rights to advertise on nearly every sign in the place.
Can it be long before the place is known as the Federal Express Forbidden City, like some sort of sports arena in the U.S.? Or perhaps it will be called the Haier Forbidden City or the Lenovo Forbidden City, after a better known Chinese company.