Why Starbucks Is Suddenly Becoming Rebel Chic In China

Seriously, Starbucks. How vilification in Chinese state TV made Starbucks cool.

1. Last week, China’s state-run CCTV investigated the unfair price of Starbucks lattes in China.

Claiming it was “an investigation from CCTV correspondents stationed around the globe,” they found that a tall latte was cheaper in London, Mumbai, and Chicago. One interviewee said: “How can I afford to live, if I drank a cup every day?”

Jason Lee / Reuters
ID: 1849714

2. Many in China were puzzled by the lengthy, severe report. They didn’t feel like their lives were ruined by Starbuck’s inflated prices.

ID: 1849390

3. Still more found it ridiculous that state TV would report on ‘unjust’ latte prices while censoring discussions on bigger issues.

ID: 1848574

5. Netizens began to rally people to buy Starbucks lattes. Somehow CCTV’s segment made Starbucks a cool countercultural company to support.

Yes, you’ll probably never hear “Starbucks” and “counterculture” together in a sentence anywhere else.

ID: 1848579

7. Whatever the Chinese state media targets apparently becomes instantly cool.

ID: 1848572

8. These breakdowns on Starbucks’ prices went viral. Many said China’s high rent and low wages were the real issues people should focus on.

ID: 1848597

9. Starbucks China posted this image on their Weibo after CCTV ran the segment. Many believed Starbucks was flipping CCTV the bird.

@StarbucksChina later said it was a giraffe instead of an alpaca and apologized for the misunderstanding, but not before being reblogged thousands of times. On Chinese social media, plausible deniability is key.

ID: 1848576

10. You can follow the whole fracas on Weibo’s #星巴克 tag.

ID: 1849821

Check out more articles on!

Comics Editor + Chinese-English Translator.
Contact Kevin Tang at

More News

More News

Now Buzzing