Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked for the support of Starbucks to mend China-U.S. relations, in a move intended to set the tone for the country’s ties to Washington D.C. under the incoming Biden administration.
“I hope Starbucks will make active efforts to promote China-U.S. economic and trade cooperation and the development of bilateral relations,” said Xi, whose letter was directed to Starbucks chairman emeritus Howard Schultz, according to Bloomberg.
“China has embarked on a new journey of comprehensively building a modern socialist country, which will provide a broader space for companies from all over the world, including Starbucks and other American companies, to develop in China,” Xi wrote.
China has often used its connections to American business leaders to develop U.S.-China relations, and has repeatedly focused on commerce as a stabilizer in bilateral ties. Under the Trump administration, relations between China and the U.S. deteriorated, due to the implementation of tariffs by President Trump, and criticism over China’s failure to handle the coronavirus pandemic, which first broke out in the city of Wuhan.
Rebuilding bilateral ties will be one of President-elect Joe Biden’s first major challenges.
Jinping’s letter was a response to Schultz, who congratulated Beijing on the near completion of the country’s plan to build a “moderately prosperous society.” Schultz also praised the Chinese people and culture, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
Schultz has long been a supporter of China, describing it as a competitor to the United States, rather than an enemy. According to Bloomberg, Schultz stepped down from his position as executive chairman of Starbucks in 2018 and is estimated to be worth $5.1 billion. He considered running for president in 2020, but ultimately did not run for office.