Western Consumer Culture (Starbucks) Research Proposal

starbucks-logoWhile studying at Tsinghua University, my field study consists focuses specifically on the appeal Western consumer culture within China.  To begin my research proposal, I’ll be describing the community and the site that I will be studying in! As it says in the title, my main site of focus is none other than Starbucks. There are several reasons why I designated Starbucks as my site of focus.

1) Convenience: There are more than 6 Starbucks located around the Tsinghua area, making gathering information significantly easier. Essentially, I’ll be able to dive right into my field site immediately and use my time more efficiently – or that’s my plan at least.

2) Relevance: Starbucks is an American multinational corporation, and definitely represents American consumer culture in some way, making it a legitimate site to conduct my research at.

3)Popularity: Over the past decade, Starbucks popularity within China has exploded. There are over 500 Starbucks throughout China, and have planned to be triple that by 2015 (says the Starbucks corporation). China is now Starbucks second largest market in the world, which clearly represents the massive appeal that the Chinese people have for it.


As I mentioned earlier, my research project is targeted specifically on the influence of Western culture within Chinese society. Essentially, I’m going to be observing the Chinese who shuffle in and out of the Starbucks, and interview them on what makes Starbucks so attractive. I will be asking them about the appeal Western consumer culture within China, along with several other important elements which I think may be the source of appeal. My goal is to uncover the driving factor in Starbucks’ growth in China over the past decade, and truly understand why the Chinese people simply adore it.


In order to make the most of of my field research project, I hope to make contact with my field site as soon as possible.  I’m planning my first contact with the site, the day after I arrive (June 14th).

starbucks directions beijing


This is a map I got from Google, and it shows the distance from the Eastern Tsinghua Gate, to the nearest Starbucks. With an estimated 4 minute walk, being able to find time to conduct my research should not prove difficult, raising making my ability to conduct research. I also simply just like Starbucks, so I plan on making a trip down there everyday/every other day, hoping to stop and collect data for some period of time. Also, upon making my first trip to my site, I inform the staff and employees that I’m working on a field research project, and hope to collect information from not only the customers, but the employees as well. My hopes are to get some of their contact information, and consistently get an insider Chinese individual’s view on why Starbucks is so appealing.




starbucks beijing

I also want to mention that my research will not only be limited to one Starbucks. Because of the environment, different Starbucks attract different people (eg. Starbucks near a school will have students vs. Starbucks near a corporate center will have professionals). I have a map revealing several Starbucks in the vicinity of Tsinghua University, and my goal is to make contact with them within the second week of my stay. My main focus will be on the Starbucks closest to the University (point 1 on the map), however to get a larger perspective, eventually I will branch out.




Essentially, I will be gathering the opinions of the Chinese people (Starbucks employees and customers) through interview. Some major questions I plan on finding the answer to are:

1) Does the restaurant itself represent Western trends, and popular culture that the Chinese seek?

2) Is it simply because the restaurant is a change-up from one’s daily lifestyle in China that makes it appealing?

3) Is it the coffee?
And much more. I plan on keeping recordings of every interview, and if time allows it, typing them up. By typing up the conversations, it feels easier to dissect the ideas that come forth through the interviews, and in some ways it makes it relatively simple to juxtapose different opinions.


The most interesting thing about this topic to me is that it’s happening right now. Starbucks and several other multinational corporations have been expanding thoroughly into China. However, it’s still vague as to why all of these companies have had such a monumental growth period over the past decades, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to figure out!