Can Starbucks Coffee Improve China-US Ties? Cui Tiankai Urges Howard Schultz to Try

Former Chinese envoy to the United States, Cui Tiankai, has called on US coffee chain Starbucks to promote exchanges between the two countries. The call was made during a meeting with former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai’s Jingan district. Schultz emphasized the importance of promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries for the healthy, stable, and sustainable development of bilateral ties.

The two countries have “more commonalities than differences,” and China’s achievements in socioeconomic development and improving its people’s livelihoods are “heartening.” Schultz met with Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Jining, who also urged the company to be a bridge between the two countries and encourage more American young people to come to China to learn, network, and create conditions for cooperation.

China is the biggest market for the coffee giant outside the United States, with more than 7,000 Starbucks stores across 800 Chinese cities by the end of last year. Starbucks plans to increase this number to 9,000 units by 2025. However, it is facing pressure in other parts of the world, particularly in Muslim-majority countries, over its decision to distance itself from the pro-Palestinian Starbucks Workers United union. Starbucks’ Middle East franchisee, Alshaya Group, has reportedly laid off more than 2,000 workers relating to the consumer boycotts.

In December, Starbucks condemned “violence, the loss of innocent life and all hate and weaponized speech” and had “no political agenda.” Apple CEO Tim Cook also stopped in Shanghai on his way to Beijing for the China Development Forum, where US executives are expected to make up the biggest delegation.

Cook met Commerce Minister Wang Wentao, who said China was an important market and key supply chain partner for Apple. He said Apple will continue to be committed to long-term development in China and increase investment in China’s supply chain, research and development, and sales. The forum, launched in 2000, aims to bring international corporate chiefs, organizations, as well as academics together for direct dialogue with Beijing.

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