Tribal Warfare: Urban Angst in China’s Supermarkets

– While most laowai are probably familiar with the phenomenon of the “ant tribe,” a recent article in The Economist introduced a number of other “tribes” of stressed-out young Chinese struggling to survive in the urban jungle. Perhaps the most unusual is the “crush-crush tribe” (捏捏族), who release their frustrations by hiding in supermarket aisles and … Read More »

Gift Recycling: China’s Not-So-Underground Economy

– As China celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival this past week, countless gifts were exchanged by friends, families, and co-workers in homes and offices all across the country. In the days following the festival, many gifts changed hands once again, this time behind store counters and in narrow back alleys. These second exchanges were part of a … Read More »

Fast Food in China: The Men Who Would Be Colonel

– Since the first Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its doors in Beijing in 1987, the chain has dominated China’s fast food market, establishing a presence that dwarfs its profile back home in the US.  And so it’s not surprising that aspiring fast food entrepreneurs have been eager to hitch a ride on the Colonel’s coattails.  While … Read More »

From Peking to Beijing: A Long and Bumpy Trip

– Not long ago I went out to dinner with some friends who had just recently arrived in China.  Since this was their first time in Beijing, we naturally went for the city’s signature dish at Quanjude.  Just as any religious pilgrimage is accompanied by certain obligatory rituals and prayers, so too does the Beijing visitor’s … Read More »

Fast Food in China: Beyond the Golden Arches

For many in China, “fast food” means McDonalds and KFC. To the average laowai, a visit to the nearest burger joint (or a phone call to the bicycle delivery man) is a periodic necessity for those craving a reminder of life back home and a break from their usual Chinese diet of rice and noodles. Even many Chinese consider fast food to be a uniquely foreign –- or specifically American –- phenomenon.

But Western fast food restaurants in China have long been outnumbered by native competitors. For decades, these Chinese chains were mostly small-scale operations limited to a particular city or province. But in recent years, a persistent handful have begun to extend their reach across the country and establish themselves as national, or at least regional, brand names. A diverse group, their menus range from American fast food staples to regional Chinese specialties, and some imaginative creations that don’t quite fit any category. Here’s a guide to five popular and fast-growing Chinese chains you’ll likely come across (if you haven’t already) Read More »

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