Starbucks is one of Washington State’s best known exports. The coffee shop chain first came to China in 1999 and now has around 350 stores in 26 cities on the mainland. Wang Jinlong, who became president of Starbucks Greater China four years ago, shared his insights on Chinese perceptions of Washington.
On Chinese impressions of Washington:
Unlike many other US states, a lot of mainland Chinese residents both recognize and have warm feelings for Washington. Almost all of the [Chinese] leaders have come to visit the state. Another thing is Gary Locke, the first overseas Chinese governor of a state. The Chinese are very proud of his achievement.
On Washington brands and Chinese consumers
The Chinese, in my view, tend to be interested in big institutions and big brands. If you look at the Chinese community it’s always the state, the government, the media, the big company, the institution that has big emphasis. Seattle has Boeing, which is well known to Chinese, and Microsoft and Starbucks. I think it helps because [Chinese] people see the innovation, the technology, and all these types of industries making their consumer world. They see how [Washington firms] build brands and in that respect, there is a strong connection there.
On the role of Washington non-governmental organizations:
I think the Washington State China Relations Council plays a huge role. It’s a very strong council, important for business and for cultural exchange. The other is the US-China Clean Energy Forum. That in my view is very unique and very timely. The second forum [after the first one in Beijing] was held in Seattle. And the people who are really putting a lot of time and effort into it are from Seattle. I think they have a good track record and have made a good start. And that’s why when Dennis [Bracy, chief executive of the Forum] sent me an invitation, I had no hesitation to join. But you know, things like that, which are very forward-looking, will give Washington state a good reputation here.