Can Starbucks coffee improve China-US ties? Cui Tiankai urges Howard Schultz to try

by Cyril Ip at

A former Chinese envoy to the United States urged US coffee chain Starbucks to promote exchanges between the two countries, saying the company could “play a positive role in advancing [bilateral ties]”.
Cui Tiankai, Beijing’s longest-serving ambassador to Washington, made the call in a meeting with former Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Shanghai’s Jingan district on Friday.

“We encourage Starbucks to make more contributions to promoting mutual understanding between China and the United States and their peoples,” Cui said, adding that China offered a “vast market” to the chain.

Cui stressed that promoting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries were crucial to the healthy, stable and sustainable development of bilateral ties.

Schultz said the two countries had “more commonalities than differences”, and that China’s achievements in socioeconomic development and in improving its people’s livelihood were “heartening”.

Schultz is in China to attend the China Development Forum, which begins in Beijing on Sunday.

He and Cui met previously during Cui’s eight-year stint in the United States, which ended in 2021.

Schultz’s trip comes less than a year after a meeting in Beijing with Vice-President Han Zheng, who echoed President Xi Jinping’s hope that the company would “play a positive role in advancing [bilateral ties]”.

Schultz also met Shanghai Communist Party chief Chen Jining on Friday, with Chen also urging 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.

Schultz said: “We are willing to give full play to our own advantages and contribute more to promoting economic and trade cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between the US and China.”