Selected Starbucks stores in the Chinese capital Beijing will be offering free web access, on computers provided by SOHU.com (www.sohu.com), an online brand and Internet portal popular in Mainland China.

Thirteen stores hope to use the alliance with SOHU.com to heighten customer service and convenience. David Sun, CEO of Beijing Mei Da Coffee, a licensee of the US coffee house giant, commented: "Starbucks takes great pride in enriching its customers' in-store experience. We are excited about this unique, strategic alliance with SOHU.com as both our companies are intensely focused on serving customers and providing first-class products and services."

SOHU.com's CEO, Charles Zhang, believes that "the combination of Starbucks and SOHU.com is a natural one, as is browsing the Net and enjoying a cup of coffee. Our cooperation will greatly strengthen the brand presence of both companies within the growing Internet community in Beijing."