Alarmed by the duos deteriorating bond, President Xi Jinping has asked former CEO Howard Schultz of Starbucks to help repair U.S.-Chinese relations that have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid a tariff war and tension over technology and security.
According to reports, a letter from Xi to Schultz by the official Xinhua News Agency was a rare direct communication from China’s paramount leader to a foreign business figure. Schultz opened Starbucks’ first China outlet in 1999 and is a frequent visitor.
In the letter, the President asked Schultz “to encourage him and Starbucks to continue to play an active role in promoting Chinese-U.S. economic and trade co-operation and the development of bilateral relations,” Xinhua reported. No text of the letter was released.
The News Agency did not give indication whether the letter reflected an initiative to ask American corporate leaders to help change policy after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Reports have it that economists and political analysts said Biden is likely to try to revive co-operation with Beijing over North Korea and other political issues, adding that few changes on trade are expected due to widespread frustration in Washington over China’s human rights record and accusations of technology theft.
It would be recalled that Schultz, who was Starbucks CEO until 2017 and chairman until 2018, led an aggressive expansion that made China its biggest market outside the United States. Starbucks stated that it has more than 4,700 stores and 58,000 employees in almost 190 Chinese cities.
It would also be recalled that Schultz had in 2019 said he was considering running for president as an independent but later dropped that.