Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia - Food and Culture in the Classroom

A brief article about what the book "Golden Arches East" can be used to teach, and how teachers can use it to approach lectures of culture, East Asia, and globalization/transnationalism.
Year of Publication
Education About Asia
Volume 8
Start Page
Date Published
Spring 2003
Average: 5 (1 vote)


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Worth Reading if you are interested in global business and Chinese society

Field of Interest/Specialty: Mandarin Chinese
Posted On: 04/20/2015

The research findings from this book resonate extremely well in me. I felt that the book has spoken with my inner voice. It accurately depicted how I felt overall on American fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC in China when I left China for America over ten years ago. I have told many people that it was a culture shock for me to realize the image discrepancy in these two countries --- that McDonald’s and KFC in USA were not upper scaled restaurants as they were perceived widely in China; rather, they serve the working class or people driving on the road at relatively cheap prices in USA; whereas in China I always thought McDonald’s and KFCs are upper scaled fast food restaurants because of their modern decorations, standardized kitchen procedures and higher prices even though their food is far less delicious compared to the authentic Chinese food.
I can’t agree more with these researchers that the secrets for McDonald’s succeeded in East Asia attribute largely to the company’s “selling the ‘American culture’ rather than ‘just the food’,” and the approaches for localization and standardization. McDonald’s may not be able to control the taste responses of individual consumers, but it can make the experience of eating relatively predictable. The familiarity factor is central to McDonald’s success. (P. 22). Although James Cantalupo, President of McDonald’s International, claims that the goal of McDonald’s is to “become as much a part of the local culture as possible.” (P. 12) McDonald’s appeared to many Chinese people at first is that it was foreign and exotic yet very friendly to kids and families. McDonald’s could not have succeeded in East Asia without appealing to younger generations of consumers, children and teenagers. (P. 19) When McDonald’s started businesses in China, they felt the pulses from different customers (such as children born under “Only One Child Policy,” the growing new riches who are hungry for redeeming their American dreams by eating at McDonald’s), and the concerns on the food safety, clean bathrooms and efficient management, etc.
The researches were done over ten years ago. I wish that a follow-up research could be carried out in 20 or 30 years. Looking back, the Chinese society was calling for the changes, McDonald’s responded very well. The corporation has not just introduced American’s culture to the Chinese people (such as birthday celebration, self-serving, good consumer behaviors, treating everyone equally with great smiles, work efficiently, etc.), but also made a remarkable achievement in being involved in the local communities. Everything comes with two sides, the good things also accompany the bad things. One thing that I disagree with the researcher’s findings is on McDonald’s efforts in providing nutritious foods - not enough yet. I am a old school - have never liked to eat in McDonald’s because of its lacking of green vegetables and snack like feeling. when kids grow up eating fast food, they become used to it thus eat less healthier. For this reason, I continue discourage my family to eat at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and KFC.
I highly recommend this book to those who are interested in learning Chinese development in the past 20 years. This book can provide the readers many wonderful case studies and provoking findings.