China’s leader has called on Starbucks’ former chairman Howard Schultz to help promote US-China relations, according to Chinese state media.
State-run news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping had written to Schultz, encouraging the American billionaire and the global coffee giant he ran for years to improve economic and trade ties.
Xi’s letter was in response to a message from the US businessman.
According to a person familiar with the matter, Schultz recently sent the Chinese president a translated copy of his latest book, “From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America.” The correspondence included a letter to Xi, which pointed to Starbucks’ longstanding commitment to China and its employees there, the person added.
According to Xinhua, Xi suggested that Schultz and Starbucks (SBUX) “continue to play a positive role in advancing” relations between the two countries. Xi also emphasized that China was working to open up further to “enterprises from across the world, including Starbucks and other American companies,” the agency reported.
In a statement, Schultz said it was a “great honor” to have received a reply from Xi.
“I truly believe 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 added.
Schultz stepped down as chairman of Starbucks in 2018, after which he took on the honorary title of chairman emeritus. At the time, he said that he was exploring a run for president as an independent candidate in 2020. Those plans were eventually called off.
Schultz is outspoken on political issues. During his four decades at Starbucks, he positioned the company as a progressive champion in corporate America.
Schultz has also addressed US-China ties. In 2018, he lamented the effects of the trade war, saying that US tariffs on Chinese goods wouldn’t help American jobs. China is Starbucks’ top overseas growth market.
“Every time that we have had a conflict of trade, and there have been trade wars, it has resulted in a downturn of the economy of the United States,” he told CNN at the time. “This is what I really believe. The country [of] America should not be building walls of any kind. We should be building bridges.”