BEIJING (AP) – President Xi Jinping calls on former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to help mend U.S.-China relations which have plunged to their lowest level in decades amid tariff war and tensions over technology and security.
A letter from Xi to Schultz reported by the state-run Xinhua News Agency on Friday was a rare direct communication from the Chinese Supreme Leader to a figure in the foreign affairs community. Schultz opened the first Starbucks outlet in China in 1999 and is a frequent visitor.
Xi wrote to Schultz “to encourage him and Starbucks to continue playing an active role in promoting China-US economic and trade cooperation and developing bilateral ties,” Xinhua reported. No text of the letter has been published.
Xinhua did not say whether the letter reflected a move to ask U.S. business leaders to help change policies after President-elect Joe Biden takes office next week.
Economists and political analysts say Biden will likely try to revive cooperation with Beijing on North Korea and other political issues. But little change on trade is expected due to widespread frustration in Washington over China’s human rights record and accusations of technology theft.
The Cabinet press office did not immediately respond to questions about what Xi wanted Schultz to do and whether he had contacted other U.S. business leaders.
Schultz, CEO of Starbucks until 2017 and Chairman until 2018, led an aggressive expansion that made China its largest market outside of the United States. Starbucks claims to have more than 4,700 stores and 58,000 employees in nearly 190 Chinese cities.
Schultz said in 2019 he was considering running for president as an independent, but later abandoned that decision.
Xinhua said Xi was responding to a letter from Schultz congratulating the Chinese leader on “completing a wealthy society” under his leadership, Xinhua said.
- According to the source Xi asks Starbucks’ Schultz to help repair US-China ties.
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