Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks and the man credited as the brains behind the company’s rocket to worldwide success in the 1990s, was asked by China’s President Xi Jinping to aid him in repairing the strained relations between his country and the United States. AP has revealed that an official letter was sent by the President of China to Mr. Schultz with the request.
The letter was revealed last Friday by the official Xinhua News Agency and was described as a rare direct communication from China’s leader to a foreign business figure. According to the report President Xi wrote to encourage both Howard Schultz and Starbucks “to continue to play an active role in promoting Chinese-U.S. economic and trade cooperation and the development of bilateral relations.” Starbuck’s opened its first Chinese outlet in 1999 and Schultz is reportedly still a frequent traveler to that country.
To say that the diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China have hit a forty year low after the four years of Donald Trump’s Presidency would be an understatement. President Trump made a trade war with China a central part of his campaign and imposed new tariffs on Chines goods.
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The American President also attempted to ban the activities of Chinese companies like TikTok whose app was barred by the U.S. Department of Commerce last summer. This was done because American authorities accused the Chinese government of using its companies – which are all owned in partnership with it – including social media apps to somehow spy on American interests. But a Federal court temporarily suspended the ban and the new Joe Biden administration is expected to undo it.
President Trump said that China was forced to pay for the new tariffs. But economists explained that in actuality it was the American consumer who needed to foot the bill in higher prices. And when the Chinese retaliated with their own new tariffs President Trump backed down.
Political observers believe that as President Joe Biden will reverse many of President Trump’s executive orders regarding China and move to improve relations between the two nations. But this might not be such an easy thing to do.
Howard Schultz released a statement about President Xi’s letter saying that he truly believes that, “Starbucks best days are ahead in China and that the values of creativity, compassion, community and hard work will guide the company toward an even greater business and community contribution, while continuing to build common ground for cooperation between our two countries.”
He did not, however, comment on the exact content of the letter itself which still remains a mystery. Should Mr. Schultz agree to offer assistance it would not be the first time that a business leader would serve as a diplomatic representative. History is filled with such examples, including Israeli and Emirati business people meeting in secret before their two nations established full ties last summer.