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China Big Mac Attack. James L. Watson. Emerging of American food chains and beverages in China. The cultural variant of globalism: McDonaldization in China.

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China Big Mac Attack

James L. Watson

The cultural variant of globalism mcdonaldization in china l.jpg
The cultural variant of globalism: McDonaldization in China

  • As of June 1999, McDonald’s had opened 235 restaurants in China. Hong Kong alone boasted 158 McDonald’s franchises, one for every 42,000 residents (compared to one for every 30,000 Americans).

  • Now: 2008 – almost 700 restaurants in China

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Cultural imperialism through McDonald’s

  • Thomas Friedman: “McDonald’s and other manifestations of global cultures serve the interests of middle classes that are emerging in autocratic, undemocratic societies.”

  • Not really the food, but the experience: eating in a cheerful, air-conditioned, child-friendly restaurant that offers the revolutionary innovation of clean toilets.

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Localization of McDonald’s in Hong Kong and Beijing

  • The history of McDonald’s in Hong Kong

  • Daniel Ng, an American-trained engineer, opened Hong Kong’s first McDonald’s in 1975, promoting McDonald’s as an outpost to forget that they lived in a tiny colony on the rim of Maoist China.

  • The signs outside his first restaurants were in English, the Chinese characters for McDonald’s didn’t appear until the business was safely established.

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Similar localization process in Beijing comfort foods that they’ve eaten since early childhood and even forget the American origins. (the first one opened in 1992)

  • a symbol of “connecting” with the world outside of China

  • a reward for good behavior or academic achievement

  • parents see the restaurants as havens for their school-age children: no smoking, no alcohol, effectively eliminating drugs and gangs

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The key to this process of localization: China’s changing family system and the emergence of a “singleton” subculture

  • Economic changes: A new class of consumers with money to spend on family entertainment.

  • Social changes:

    The shift from living with groom’s parents to nuclear family or living with wife’s mother; (Collapse of an outdated Confucian family system.) Confucian norms of conjugality;

    One child policy: the emergence of The Little Emperors and Empresses – selfish, maladjusted and spoiled.

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  • A combination of changes in family values and economic boom contributed to the “fever” for all things American: sports, clothing, films, food and so on.

  • American-style birthday parties in McDonald’s

  • A consumer revolution among young costumers: choosing their own food, spending their money

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More than a purveyor of food: a saturated symbol of American culture.

“like the stars and stripes, the big Mac stands for America”

  • McDonald’s – a force for improvement of urban life

  • Clean toilets and East Asian consumers associate the “Golden Arches” with public civility

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The process of localization as a two-way street culture.

Changes in the local culture as well as modification of the company’s standard mode of operation

  • Young crew, local workers move into management’s ranks

  • Acceptance of lining up and self- seating while changing fast food restaurants into leisure centers for seniors and after-school clubs for students.

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Imitating McDonald’s culture.

  • Why McDonald’s attracts China’s new elites? Because its food is safe, clean, and reliable!

  • New model of modernization, hygiene, and responsible management

  • McDucks, Mcdonald’s, Nancy’s Express (N), Honggaoliang (H): adopt uniforms, corporate mascots, exhibit cleanliness

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Future of McDonald’s with the graying of the population in China

  • With the increase of the elders, the locus of consumer power will soon shift generations as the parents of today’s little emperors retire.

  • McDonald’s: shift from a child-centered industry to a welcoming retreat from the isolation and loneliness of urban life.