China Big Mac Attack James L. Watson
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
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.
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.
In 20 years, Hong Kong youth considered McDonald’s as the comfort foods that they’ve eaten since early childhood and even forget the American origins. • McDonald's become a mainstay of Hong Kong’s middle-class cultures.
Similar localization process in Beijing (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
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changes: The shift from living with groom’s parents to nuclear family or living with wife’s mother; (Collapse of an outdated Confucian family system.)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.
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
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
The process of localization as a two-way street 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.
Imitating McDonald’s • 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
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.