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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:39, January 18, 2007
Debate: Should Starbucks be removed from the Forbidden City?
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"Why Starbucks Needs to Get Out of the Forbidden City? was title of a blog article written by Rui Chenggang, an anchorman on CCTV's English channel. The article has sparked another round of hot debate on whether the American coffee chain should be removed from one of the most important landmarks of Chinese civilization.

Anchorman: this is trampling on Chinese culture

Perhaps it is acceptable to have a Starbucks outlet near the Forbidden City, Rui wrote in his article, but it is "obscene?to have it within the City where it will be remembered by visitors as part of this historic Chinese site.

He argues that the coffee shop, a symbol of popular culture in America and western countries as a whole, doesn't blend in at the Forbidden City. He goes so far as to call it "visual pollution?

"It is not globalizing; it is trampling on Chinese culture,?he said.

His blog recorded 530,000 hits and comments have flooded the Web. Many have called the outlet a "disgrace" and the Palace Museum, the administrative organ of the Forbidden City, a "slave to money", according to Tuesday's China Daily.

Museum spokesman: we will stick to principles of conservation

The Museum's spokesman Feng Nai'en responded to the accusation in an interview with the Beijing Morning Post. He said that the museum was in discussions with Starbucks to find a proper solution, with the outcome to be decided by mid-year at the very latest.

Rent money from the coffee chain, as from other shops, is part of the museum's business earnings, said Feng, adding that when the commercial benefits clash with conservation the museum gives priority to the latter.

As early as 2005, the museum began to reconsider the layout and appearance of shops within the Forbidden City, wanting them to blend in better with the surroundings, Feng told the reporter.

Liu Rong, director of the Department of Policies, Laws and Regulations under the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, said in an interview that certain commercial operation were permitted by cultural relic organizations as they must also cater to tourists. However, priority must given to the proper preservation of cultural relics, including the overall image of each site.

Media: unwise to become slave to profit

Magnificent and imposing, the Forbidden City is a manifestation of traditional Chinese culture at its peak, and a Starbucks outlet from across the Pacific looks simply out of place there, wrote Lin Jinfang, a teacher from Jiangxi University, in an article published by Beijing Youth Daily, on January 17.

Another article on Xinhua Net voiced the opinion that the Forbidden City, as one of the most vivid symbols of the thousands of years of Chinese culture, should not be so insulted, especially not for the sake of making money.

On the same day, however, Beijing Youth Daily ran another article by Zhu Shugu, in which a civil servant from Sichuan argued that tourist facilities and cultural relics should not be lumped together. "But,?he said, "if we remove all tourist facilities related to western culture for the sake of 'original flavor? then we would certainly have to expel more than Starbucks."

Net voices: looking forward to an intact, harmonious Forbidden City

Most netizens who posted their comments were against commercial facilities in the Forbidden City.

A netizen calling himself JS wrote: "The picture of the Starbucks in the Forbidden City looks really awkward. There can be cultural exchanges. But blending everything together so crudely will only change the original 'flavor.'

Another netizen wrote that "we hope cultural relics will not be confused with business opportunities."

Liuqiu Luwei, a noted anchorwoman with Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, also waded into the debate, voicing her opinion on her blog. Both Chinese and foreign nationals hope for a harmonious, beautiful and intact Forbidden City, rather than a place distorted by commercial boards or shops, she said.

"But who should be the one to ensure that? she asked. "Even if Starbucks is pressured to relocate, something else inappropriate may appear."

By People's Daily Online


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