Starbucks in Forbidden City

Starbucks in Forbidden City

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On January 12, 2007 a prominent Chinese blogger protested against Starbucks’ presence in Beijing’s Forbidden City. The blogger stated, “This is not globalisation but an erosion of Chinese culture.” The blog post signalled the start of an avalanche of criticism as Starbucks came under attack for operating a café inside China’s Forbidden City. The effort to remove the iconic western brand from the centre of the Forbidden City quickly became global news.

Initially the story grew only within China’s Internet space, but once translated into English it became global front-page news in a matter of days. Starbucks quickly found itself on the receiving end of criticism for inappropriately operating a café in the middle of a cultural and historical centre. What should the company do?

This case can be used to discuss the convergence of mainstream and digital media, and their interaction with one another to create a virtuous news cycle within which stories are amplified. It would also enable analysing issues of cross-cultural communication, and discuss the role that national and corporate identities play in global corporate communications.

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