In China, America is open for business
John Gong

Editor's note: John Gong, PhD, is a research fellow at Charhar Institute and professor at the University of International Business and Economics. The article reflects the author's opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Costco, a membership-only warehouse club for bulk purchases of groceries and daily items, had its first store opening in China on Tuesday. The opening defied U.S. President Donald Trump's order to corporate America to move home and find an alternative, and made a mockery of his assertion that "We (United States) are better off without them (China)."

The scene at Costco's Shanghai store was breathtaking. Miles of traffic clogged the road, and people waited for hours in line for check-out. So many people were in the store that by around 3 p.m., the management had to shut down early for safety reasons.

Costco was literally full.

On Wednesday, it welcomed Chinese customers again with open arms. Costco's stock back in the U.S. jumped up by 5 percent, speaking volumes about American investors' confidence in the Chinese market. Costco speaks louder with its actions about whether the United States is truly better off without China.

America is open for business – in China!

Costco is not the first nor the only American buy-bulk retailer operating in China. Walmart-owned Sam's Club has already opened 13 stores in China since 1996. Sam's Club's Shenzhen store has been the brand's most popular out of more than 800 outlets around the globe. Four out of Sam’s Club top 10 best stores are based in China. 

The crowd at the Costco outlet in Shanghai, China, August 27, 2019. /VCG Photo

The crowd at the Costco outlet in Shanghai, China, August 27, 2019. /VCG Photo

There is a reason why this kind of buy-bulk retail model has been gaining traction in China amid the rapid growth of e-commerce. The Chinese society is becoming more mobile. Consumption is also getting more mature to be cost and quality conscious. And the traditional American lifestyle of a whole family going to a convenience store to load up the car, have some snacks, and spend a weekend afternoon with the kids is rapidly catching on here in China.

I was an ardent fan of Costco for many years when I was living in Lafayette, Colorado. I spent countless Saturday afternoons at the Costco store in Round Rock just off the last exit on I-36 before getting into Boulder. The 12-pack Starbucks Frappuccino and the 12-piece croissant pack are among the things I used to really enjoy in those days. I gobbled down 1.99-dollar hot dog meals with an unlimited-refill soft drink and a Sunday paper in hand at the front of the store while waiting for my wife to shop, shop, shop.

The Costco story on Tuesday testifies to the extent of how economies in America and China are intertwined and how both countries can benefit from that healthy relationship. It also testifies to the Chinese people's goodwill toward America and its companies. 

One might see plenty of China-bashing on social media these days or the kind of "scoundrel patriotism" that Samuel Johnson referred to on display in some individual editorials. But at the end of the day, people vote with their wallet – companies and consumers alike. 

And the scene at Costco in Shanghai on Tuesday was a clear vote for what the China-U.S. economic relationship could be. 

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