today, i walked from the shenzhen university south gate along houhai road to coastal city, remembering earlier walks when the road was under construction and oyster squatters lived in shanties. i was also struck by the proliferation of gates and cheap restaurants, but most noticeable was the sudden burst of american coffee shops – pacific coffee company and dunkin donuts have joined starbucks, even as my local favorite, hanamura has closed.
i´m noticing how the longer i´m here the easier it is to be american in a rather conventional fast-food kind of way. it´s not simply that years ago i would walk to mcdonald´s for a cup of bad coffee (this was pre-mccafe), but that all the bits and pieces of consumptive americana are now easily had, everywhere and yet the more interesting fragments do not translate, so to speak.
the global imaginary of junk food tastes in shenzhen is as narrow as it seems. with the american chains have come hong kong, taiwanese, korean and japanese chains. however, i haven´t noticed chains from other parts of the globe. indeed, global pop culture in shenzhen seems divided into flavors of china, japan and korea, and the u.s. although carrefoure (france mega-mart) has a presence, it is not as pervasive as jusco (japan) or wallmart (u.s.). moreover, fast food tastes were prefigured by the dominance of hong kong, taiwan, the u.s., japan, and korea in shenzhen mass culture, specifically movies and television.
what is it about beef and fried chicken, coffee drinks and sushi that are so portable? and why do i keep going back.