Biden's 'noodle diplomacy' a boon for Beijing restaurant
He may not have ordered the signature bowl of guts, but Vice President Joe Biden’s stop last week for lunch at a Beijing family-owned eatery during his state visit has proven a boon for business.
Diners have been lining up outside Yaoji Chaogan, reportedly waiting as long an hour for a table at the no-frills restaurant specializing in pork liver and intestine soup.
"Usually there aren't so many people at this time, and you can get a table quickly. But customers began to gather all day long after Biden's visit," a 76-year-old regular customer told the Global Times.
Calls to the restaurant by The Times went unanswered Monday.
Some customers have been asking for the “Biden set,” according to the Beijing Evening News.
The vice president, who played it safe Thursday by ordering steamed meat buns, smashed cucumber salad and noodles topped with soy bean paste, was lauded in state media for his “noodle diplomacy.”
His everyman gesture came days after a photograph of U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke buying his own coffee and carrying a backpack at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport went viral here. Online commentators said Chinese officials would consider such tasks beneath them.
Biden’s $12 meal also set off discussion about the cost of dining out at a time when soaring food costs have helped drive inflation in China to a three-year high.
“How long can the price Biden enjoyed last?” asked a micro-blogger named Yupi.
Food is central to Chinese culture. Even what you eat for lunch says a great deal about who you are, according to translations here and here of a pair of online photo essays.
An editorial in the Global Times on Sunday even went so far as to suggest the vice president’s affordable meal painted an anachronistic picture of China.
“China used to be the low-cost paradise for multinational companies, having won the name of the world's manufacturing factory,” wrote John Gong, an associate professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. “But things have changed greatly over the years, as the yuan appreciated and the domestic wage levels climbed.
"Today the low-cost manufacturing value proposition is all but a myth, and if this trend continues, before long the country will soon wake up to see that it doesn't have much of a competitive advantage anymore in world markets.”
All this from a bowl of noodles.
-- David Pierson
Photo: Vice President Joe Biden stops at a restaurant for lunch in Beijing. Credit: Ng Han Guan / Associated Press