By Michael Ardaiolo
On April 17th, former Chinese President and death-defying octogenarian Jiang Zemin was seen scuffling into a Beijing office. On his heels for this rare face-to-face meeting was, strangely enough, slicked-back CEO cutout and Starbucks head-honcho Howard Schultz.
What could these two prominent power-wielders possibly be discussing? Is Jiang attempting to display himself as a man still integrated with the world’s business elite as the 18th Party Congress prepares for a power transition? There are questions of his health circulating. Or is Schultz showing off his own power in the Chinese market? There are still a few Starbucks-less corners left in the country just waiting for an evergreen paint job. (A rising minimum wage may also have Schultz tenting his fingertips.)
While it could just be an
obvious accidental photo-op for both men, money is probably involved in some capacity.
Jiang, as the President of the People’s Republic of China from 1993 to 2003, is no tyro when it comes to economic growth. He sustained an average of 8% growth annually for his decade in office. China was on its way to being a major world power before Jiang, but he successfully set the course through the Asian financial crisis and the touchy transition to a market economy.
Schultz bought the Starbucks in the mid-eighties after its management decided to focus their attention on a different coffee company. Through aggressive, non-franchising expansion with a goal of remarketing American coffee shops as the premier meeting destination, Shultz drove Starbucks right past the States borders and onto worldwide domination.
The two men may not have much in common on a personal basis, but there is definitely some symbiotic potential when viewing their résumés side by side.