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A Friendship Store (simplified Chinese: 友谊商店; traditional Chinese: 友誼商店; pinyin: Yǒuyì Shāngdiàn) is a state-run store in the People's Republic of China (PRC), which initially sold exclusively to foreign visitors and tourists, diplomats, and government officials, but now has no restrictions on customers.
The stores were state-owned and first appeared in the 1950s, when they were primarily frequented by the many Soviet experts assisting China's economic development. The stores sold Western, imported items, such as peanut butter and Hershey bars, as well as high-quality Chinese art and crafts. The prices were considerably higher than market prices in the country of origin, but as the stores operated as a monopoly for imported items, buyers had no other choice. The old Friendship Stores accepted only foreign exchange certificates as currency. Items for sale included also uncensored copies of Western literature such as The New York Times, and, hence, guards prevented anyone of Chinese appearance from entering. Often crowds of people would look in the door to see what was for sale.
Most stores have since closed down, however a few still remain open, most notably in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Most closed with the abolition of foreign exchange certificates in the early 1990s, at which point foreign visitors could hold ordinary renminbi in the PRC.
Modern Friendship Stores
The Beijing store has a Starbucks, Baskin-Robbins, Délifrance, Pizza Hut, and a bookshop which stocks a wide range of English-language magazines and newspapers. It has been announced that the site is to be redeveloped, with the Friendship Store being replaced by a more modern shopping center, offices, and a Conrad Hotel.