So there I was, in the heart of Xi'an, a Chinese city full of history and culture, home to the famous Terra-cotta warriors. The great walls of the city stretched from east to west, north to south, protecting the ancient capital. The lights of this beautiful temple in the center of the city shone in the night sky. Even with the modern advances of cars and electricity, the scene was dazzling.
But there seems to be something out of place... do you see it? Look carefully...
How about now, in a close-up of the bottom-right of the photo?
Yes, it is the ubiquitous McDonald's. Even in the heartland of Chinese history, you cannot escape the 99 cent (or should I say 6 Yuan) chicken nuggets and greasy french fries. It's actually kind of frightening how quickly this fast food chain can spread throughout a country. In major Chinese cities, you can find a McDonald's on every block. The kids can't get enough of it. The Other invaders include Starbucks, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Speaking of KFC...guess where this next picture is taken?
It was on the site of the museum of the famous Terra-cotta warriors, one of China's national treasures. We had to pass this KFC to get from the parking lot to the main museum.
And guess what we also found displayed the Museum of the Terra-cotta warriors? A framed photograph of Clinton and his family visiting the warriors. Obviously the museum was very proud that such an important figure visited their exhibit.
Oh, and remember the Haagan-Dazs? These little precious scoops of ice cream cost a fortune, more than the cost of an average meal.
Why do people buy this ice cream? There is plenty of other brands in China that are much more affordable - but the reason people want it is because of the price. The high price means that this is a western luxury good, which represents somewhat of a symbol of social status.
Sadly, this seems to be a trend. Anything western, whether it be celebrities, pop music, movies, clothing brands, or food, automatically seems to be superior to their domestic counterparts. Teens listen to singers such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift and watch the popular TV show Gossip Girl. People want Buick cars and iPhones. Fashionable women wear Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren with their Dior sunglasses and Louis Vuitton or Coach bags (likely fake ones!). Boys run around in Nike shoes. Beautiful Caucasian models fill billboards in cities and commercials on TV. Students dream of studying abroad in Europe or the United States. Little kids whine for hamburgers or Lay's chips instead of traditional home-cooked food. Magazines and product advertisements are littered with English phrases in an attempt to look "cool."
Though it's good that China has "opened up" its economy in the past decades, I really hope that its people realize that "western" or "American" doesn't necessarily mean better. There are so many wonderful Chinese musicians, designers, beautiful models so China shouldn't have to look towards the West for talent or style. Also, Chinese food is delicious! I really hope people can realize that fast food can never compete with a good traditional meal.
It's interesting that at the same time the mainstream Chinese opinion derides the West and particularly the U.S. for being dominating and intrusive politically, the Chinese people are simply devouring all these western goods. If they are voting with their dollar (Yuan), I'm not sure what that means for the future. However, I guess it is possible to separate business and politics.
I learned in class that the Chinese do a very good job of separating the U.S. government from the American people (and their businesses). While most Chinese people have negative feelings towards the government, they believe that the American people as a whole are good. Therefore maybe it is not ironic that they have such favorable feelings towards consumer goods and such negative impressions of the government.
Anyways, I think that is enough rambling for today. What do you think about the spread of Western influence in China? Is it a benefit or is it harmful?