Coffee,Tea, or Rui?
The way that what could be seen as pro-nationalist blogging of young Chinese news anchor Rui Chenggang is forcing the Starbucks in the Forbidden City to face eviction is making the news this week in the BBC, The Guardian, and The Los Angeles Times, but a quick survey of past coverage of the Chinese blogosphere on sites like the Internet-oriented Lost Laowai reveals that this defense of traditionalism actually isn't such a new story. Despite nine million visitors to the Starbucks and the fact that Rui himself admits to enjoying java from the U.S.-based company often in other locales, an online petition garnered over 500,000 signatures and stirred up anti-U.S. sentiments. This story and other items on Lost Laowai about anti-American feelings expressed on the World Wide Web may demonstrate one of Manuel Castells' theses that distributed networks can be used to manifest reactions against globalization and may not always foster the transnational cosmopolitanism that its boosters promise. Of course, many point out that it is precisely Rui's public cosmopolitanism that gives him credibility in this battle for the brand identity of public space. For more on Starbucks in China, see this clip from UCI history professor Jeffrey Wasserstrom.