Can You Guess Why This Photo Has Captivated China?

By
Gary Locke doing something amazing.Photo: weibo.com/adsagetang

According to CNN, this photo, showing recently appointed U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke at a Starbucks in Seattle, has been "picked up by bloggers and the mainstream media alike in China" and "re-posted more than 40,000 times" since Friday. Can you guess why? Is it ...

A) Because ordering coffee is seen as out-of-touch with China's tea-drinking culture.
B) Because Locke asked for a "small" instead of a "tall".
C) Because Locke was carrying his own bag and tried to pay with a coupon.
D) Because Locke's daughter, in a subtle nod to communism, is dressed in all pink.

The answer is ... C! As CNN explains:


They appeared to be impressed by the understated envoy's low key approach, which is in stark contrast to the tight security that typically follows senior Chinese diplomats.

"He's carrying his own backpack," exclaimed the Beijing Times, while the government-run Beijing Legal News observed that Locke's family "look like ordinary travelers."

The Chinese citizen who posted the photo was equally intrigued by the Starbucks employee's casual rejection of Locke's coupon. According to Shanghaist:


Tang described what he saw at the Starbucks outlet as follows: "What's funny is that Ambassador Locke took out what looked like a voucher to the cashier, who upon examining the voucher informed the ambassador that the voucher could not be accepted. He didn't give the ambassador any face at all, but the ambassador wasn't angry and proceeded to pay with his credit card."

In China, that Starbucks employee and his entire extended family would have been sent to a forced labor camp.

'Backpacking' U.S. envoy a hit in China [CNN]
Picture of US Ambassador Gary Locke buying his own coffee burns up the internets [Shanghaist]