One of the first Chinese McDonald’s opened on April 23, 1992, in Beijing, the largest in the world, at the time. I never got to eat there: My mother was busy packing our things. Two weeks after it opened, she and I were on a plane bound for Montreal to join my father, who was then completing a postdoc that would leave him broke for years. What I remember most from that period was how little we did. My mother worked weekend shifts at a sock factory, while my father took over at home. He studied in our one-bedroom apartment, and I watched TV. On special occasions, we went to McDonald’s.
In Canada, just like in China, eating at McDonald’s was a novelty for us. In the wake of post-Mao economic reforms, the belated introduction of the Golden Arches to China represented a whole ethos about what constituted the good