SHANGHAI - US fast food giant McDonald’s has served up a super-sized order of controversy by proposing a branch in a historic building in one of China’s most frequently painted landscapes, Hangzhou’s West Lake.
The government agency that manages the lake and its surroundings this week posted a proposal to allow a McDonald’s into the former home of the late Taiwanese leader Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of Kuomintang chief Chiang Kai-shek.
The plan described the outlet as a coffee shop, suggesting a McCafe. It will have 100 seats in a building with an area of 335 square metres (3,600 square feet) and serve French fries among other items, the proposal said.
West Lake is celebrated in Chinese tradition, notably by poet Su Shi of the Song Dynasty from 960 to 1279, who compared the body of water to a beautiful woman.
The thought of the Golden Arches finding a spot among its stone causeways, tree-lined paths, and placid island-dotted waters triggered fury.
“In the future, will Uncle McDonald (Ronald McDonald) with a head of red hair, a big smile on his face, be sitting on a bench just metres away from the Broken Bridge?” the Qianjiang Evening News newspaper asked, referring to one site.
McDonald’s in China could not be immediately reached for comment.
Chinese have previously opposed what they perceive as symbols of foreign consumerism encroaching on cultural sites.
A branch of US coffee chain Starbucks was forced out of Beijing’s imperial Forbidden City in 2007 after a campaign by a journalist for state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), Rui Chenggang, now reportedly detained for corruption.
But some supported the proposal for McDonald’s to rent the house, which Chiang reportedly used in the late 1940s, as a way to restore the property.
One microblog post even called Chiang – who died in 1988 – the “hated son of someone who split the motherland” referring to the Kuomintang’s defeat by the Communists and flight to Taiwan, which China considers part of its sovereign territory.
“I hope his old house can be of service and convenience to the public,” it said.
The local government is now seeking public opinion on the proposal.
“Everything gives way to the economy,” said another posting under the name Yufuyilin. “If it can bring money, it is doomed.”