While Bill Gates no longer runs Microsoft, the company has spent decades building goodwill with Beijing. Its products have a considerable presence in China, even as other Western tech companies have been locked out.
And the success of the business has likely contributed to Bill Gates’ personal draw: He now has more than 4.1 million followers on Weibo, outnumbering Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s 1.7 million and Apple chief Tim Cook’s 1.4 million.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation set up its Beijing office in 2007 and has since then worked with the Chinese government on several domestic projects in the country, ranging from HIV intervention to poverty reduction.
At that time, China was eager to open up its economy and catch up with the West in technology. The trip — during which Gates promised Jiang that Microsoft would help China develop its software industry — helped Microsoft accelerate its expansion in the Chinese market.
In 2006, Gates hosted former Chinese President Hu Jintao for dinner at his home in the Washington state.
And last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote to Gates to thank him for his support in fighting Covid-19.
Gates was even hailed as “the Chinese people’s old friend” by the ruling Chinese Communist Party in 2018, a title that the Party occasionally uses for foreigners it recognizes as having a deep friendship with.
Meanwhile, on social media, some distraught Chinese users even remarked that the divorce had shaken their beliefs about marriage. The couple had been married for 27 years.