High Peaks Pure Earth has translated a post from WeChat which aggregates Tibetan responses to the news that American chain restaurant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) will be opening its first outlet in Tibet in Lhasa in early 2016. The post was first circulated around December 20, 2015.
The news that KFC would be opening in Lhasa first started to be reported by Western press in early December 2015, placing it within the context of a wider expansion of KFC within the PRC by its parent company Yum Brands Inc. According to state media, the branch of KFC will be a two-storey, 540-square-metre restaurant housed in the New Times Square mall.
The views expressed in the WeChat post below are wide-ranging, the first six are against KFC opening in Lhasa while the four afterwards focus on opportunities that KFC might bring to the area and the people.
“KFC Opens in Lhasa: The People have Something to Say”
1) I’m against it: First, there’s a direct conflict between KFC’s inhumane industrialised manufacturing and Tibet’s traditional culture; secondly, KFC and McDonald’s are classified as junk food abroad. For example, you won’t be able to find a single KFC in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, Switzerland, and you’d be hard pressed to find more than a few McDonald’s either. Why should we let junk food pollute the Pure Land of Tibet and pollute the pure spirit of the Tibetans? Finally, can opening one or two KFCs really provide that many jobs? Sorry to say, it will just be chicken feed! Rather, why don’t we encourage the popularity of vegetarianism that has swept through China’s coastal cities? (I’m guessing that it’s vegetarianism that has forced KFC to turn their attention inland!)
2) I think it’s a really bad idea for KFC to come to Tibet. They have been wanting to come to Tibet for a long time, but back then Tibetans didn’t allow it because it would have been a catastrophe for a pure and spiritual land like Tibet to have a KFC. But nothing’s changed. Lhasa is getting more and more commercialised. If they come to Tibet then certainly it will be hard to avoid the killing of animals. And there will be a lot of killing. The day that this land which shines with the Dharma is defiled will soon be upon is… this is my personal viewpoint. Thank you.
3) Lhasa’s modernisation happened late but it has been rapid. If we blindly resist those things brought by modernisation, if we are not able to enjoy the conveniences of urbanisation, then we might as well try and go back and live in isolation in the mountains; why should we just follow others like a dog?
4) I suddenly remembered something from my high school textbook that I want to share with everyone: “Morality is a social ideology, it is made up of rules and standards that govern the way people live together and behave.” So, according to the 80% of the people who are followers of Tibetan Buddhism in this region, following this train of thought, shouldn’t there be some moral standards here that are unique to Tibetans!?
5) I think that when KFC comes to Tibet it will definitely have an effect on Tibetan culture. I believe that Tibetans cared a lot more about protecting animals than other people, but there are many people now who have started eating animals that we didn’t used to eat before, like fish and shrimp. And most of these people are [Tibetan] students studying in inland [China]. Actually, sometimes it’s often the environment that changes people. And now, many young people, including myself, like fast food to a certain extent, like KFC. Sometimes, when I’m at school, I will still control myself a bit. I know there’s something wrong about taking an animal’s life to simply satisfy my desire for a meal. Just think about it, once there’s a KFC in Tibet, people will start learning how to control their desires, and in that way they’ll be much more aware of animal protection. Once KFC is here, I’m sure that kids will all start eating fast food. First, that’s unhealthy, second, kids need good, fresh food while they are growing. If you let them try more kinds of food, maybe some of them will grow into gourmets; maybe they’ll fuse fast food and Tibetan food to create an even better cuisine. We are all doing more things, and the problem isn’t that KFC is coming to Tibet; rather it’s how we handle it once it’s here. We shouldn’t eat too much of it. We cannot run away from reality. I think that in the near future, as our economy grows, there will be many new foods and things coming to Tibet. So we need to do more to make sure we don’t lose out ethnic culture once these new things are here. Haha, I’m just speaking my mind. It’s solely my own view. Please forgive me if there is anything improper. [grimace emoji]
6) There are many ways and paths to develop one’s economy. On the macro level, people ignore the environment to focus on the crazy rise of GDP in today’s China. All of mankind is calling on China, even our neighbour Japan believes it’s not right and gave China 10 billion Japanese yen to protect the environment. On the micro level, ordinary people are busy earning money, so that they end up losing their own religion and culture! There’s also so little trust between people.
1) I think that the fact that we have been inundated with Taiwan’s [fast-food chain] Dico’s is evidence that there’s already a consumer demand and market [for this food]. The more strictly-regulated US’ KFC will only mean that this group of consumers will be able to relax knowing they are eating safer food.
2) I don’t really understand how [those that oppose KFC in Lhasa] look at it from a religious point of view. Tourism has played an incredibly important role in the rapid development of Tibet over the past few years. Do we really want to tell other ethnic groups and overseas tourists that they can’t eat chicken or Tibet can’t have KFC because of our religion? If you want Tibet to develop then you have to accept diversity and this includes diversity in food and drink. The arguments of [those who oppose KFC in Lhasa] make me feel that the faith of Tibetans doesn’t come from the heart but rather it needs regulations and rules to contain it. Also not all Tibetans are vegetarian and not everyone eats fast food everyday. Over the past few years, TV and websites have carried stories exposing all kinds of health issues. So everyone – adults and those who are responsible for children — have some level of awareness about this. It seems a bit over the top to insist on making it a national health issue. There’s also something else that I hope someone can give me an answer to. Why ask this question at all? What meaning does this discussion have? (This is all my own viewpoint. You can certainly completely ignore it if you wish).
3) If we love our home then we should take good care of it, but even more importantly, shouldn’t we also allow it to grow? Religion is sacred, it’s the essence of the human spirit, but we cannot use religion as an excuse to negate all attempts at development. The more outstanding a culture is then the more it needs to be handed down to the next generation and developed. We cannot limit ourselves within our own narrow vision. KFC is a famous food and beverage brand. Let’s examine its good points. First, looking at the big picture, by opening a KFC in Lhasa we can promote the growth of Tibet’s tertiary sector. Lhasa at heart is Tibet’s key tourist city; it can really cater to the needs of all those visitors from the West or inland China. Second, it can create a lot of jobs. There are a lot of children in Tibet who because of poor conditions are only able to go to mediocre schools, so doesn’t this give them a good opportunity? It can also open their minds, ushering in an era of innovation. Finally, talking about KFC coming to Tibet, with more and more people living in the city there should be more and more consumers. In other words it would encourage the growth of other sectors. There are two sides to every argument. We cannot exaggerate the bad side. From another angle, if some of the benefits brought by the development of the catering industry are invested into environmental protection in Tibet and used for building infrastructure, wouldn’t this be a solution? So in my personal opinion I don’t oppose KFC’s coming at all.
4) I study finance and so I will analyse [this question] from an economic perspective. If you really want to scientifically examine the impact of KFC on Tibet’s economy, then we have to divide this impact into a number of aspects, which are:
The impact on demand;
the impact on supply;
the impact on the use of local resources;
and, the impact on the market.
Also, these impacts can be divided into measurable quantitative effects and qualitative effects (such as improving people’s behaviour and the competitiveness of businesses). From input-output we know that KFC will have a huge impact on demand, supply, local resource utilisation and the market in Tibet. KFC will create demand in Tibet for raw materials and in capital goods; this involves the “upstream” sector. In supplying food to the table, KFC will also impact the supply side in terms of transportation, clothing, specialized equipment and telecommunications; this involves the “downstream” sector. As for KFC’s utilisation of local resources in Lhasa, we should look at the use of local manpower resources and supplies of chicken meat. Using the “multiplier” effect, suppose that every 1 Yuan KFC spends in Lhasa causes a big jump in demand, this will provide a lot of taxes for Tibet and create a lot of job opportunities and not lead to too much capital accumulation. So there will be a direct impact and an indirect impact on Tibet’s economy when KFC opens in Lhasa… Um, that’s all.