On Oct 20, China’s official state media, CCTV, ran a report on the different prices for a Cafe Latte from Starbucks in Beijing, London, and other places, accusing Starbucks of high prices for coffee in China. They reported that the same cup of Starbucks coffee is priced at 27 yuan in Beijing, 24.25 yuan in London. 19.98 yuan in Chicago, and 14.6 yuan in Bangladesh.
Other state media also carried reports accusing Starbucks of profiteering. Starbucks quickly responded on its official microblog in China on Sina Weibo. Starbucks wrote that consumers can make their own decisions. Starbucks also wrote that CCTV should place more concern on issues related to actual social problems in people’s lives.
Starbucks wrote that if the price of basic necessities could be affordable, if medical expenses could be managed, if corruption could lessen, if the air quality could be improved, and when food safety problems no longer bother us… When the Chinese no longer have to think about so many social problems, and CCTV runs out of things to report on, then talk about Starbucks.
The CCTV report on Starbucks resonated with netizens in China. The report attracted more than 40 million comments by Oct 29 on China’s largest microblogging service, Sina Weibo. A considerable number of commenters believed that CCTV overlooks the greater issues affecting Chinese society and instead focuses on extremely minor issues, like Starbucks coffee prices.
Once comment by microblogger Divine Grumble reads:
“Coffee prices are high, but housing prices are higher.”
Another comment by Homework on Sina Weibo has been forwarded 80,000 times. The comment reads:
“Buy the world’s most expensive house, drive the world’s most expensive car, pump the gasoline with the fastest rising prices, eat the world’s most unsafe food, enjoy health care that sends most families bankrupt, have the slowest and most sluggish Internet service… ignore all of these, but keep telling me that the coffee which I drink less than five times a year is the world’s most expensive—now we’re talking! (Sina Weibo)”
Microblogger “Low-class” writes:
Q: In addition to coffee, what else is more expensive in China than other countries?
A: Everything is more expensive, except the people.
“Divine Grumble” writes:
The price of coffee is high, but the price of authority is even higher. Latte is not my love, why is CCTV so keen on it?
“Hollow Life” writes:
CCTV can choose not to drink if they believe it is too expensive. But why have we never heard any criticism over the extremely expensive Maotai (an alcoholic beverage native to China)?
Some users compared the CCTV report to an official media report by the former Soviet Union criticizing a US fast food restaurant. In an ironic moment, one blogger uploaded a photo of himself standing in a long line at Starbucks.
Pet Nutritionist Duoduo wrote: CCTV’s attack on Starbucks is reminiscent of the time the Soviet Union’s state media attacked McDonald’s. They tried to persuade people not to eat McDonald’s. They told the people that eating McDonald’s is equal to delivering guns to the U.S. so that they can invade the Soviet Union.
The result was longer lines at McDonald’s. Presently, China is doing the same thing, and that’s why I’m here [lining up at Starbucks].
The U.S. Starbucks coffee chain entered the Chinese market in 1999. A Chinese Starbucks executive recently responded by saying that Chinese food production and staff training costs are comparatively high. He stated that the profit margin of Starbucks in China is “absolutely not higher than the U.S.”
Like this article? Subscribe to our weekly email for more!