When Amazon.com agreed last August to buy China's largest online bookstore Joyo.com, it inherited a decidedly low-tech delivery system:...

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When Amazon.com agreed last August to buy China’s largest online bookstore Joyo.com, it inherited a decidedly low-tech delivery system: bicycle couriers.

With fulfillment centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Amazon had purchased the means to deliver goods to consumers in 30 markets. In a nation where businesses face serious transportation problems, observers think that the investment will prove to be worth it. Amazon has a long-term approach to its investment; it wants to be ready when more of the nation’s consumers move online. “Think back to 10 years ago here” in the U.S., said spokeswoman Patty Smith. “There’s the advantage to the first movers.”

Starbucks opened its first Beijing cafe in January 1999. Six years later, the company has proven there’s room for coffee in this historically tea-drinking nation.

The specialty-coffee giant runs 140 stores in mainland China, with another 206 stores in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. The company expects China to eventually become one of its largest — if not the largest — markets outside of the U.S.

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Starbucks says coffee is considered a fashionable drink in China among urban youth and young professionals, who associate its brand with wealth and status.

Whether Starbucks is considered the Gucci of lattes there, one thing is certain: China is critical to its future growth.

For Mark Pahlow, owner of Seattle-based Archie McPhee, doing business with China is nothing new.

Pahlow began importing products more than 20 years ago. Today, roughly 90 percent of his products are made in China, from the T-Bone air freshener and sushi pencil toppers to the Edgar Allan Poe action figure with removable raven.

Pahlow says he doesn’t want to be portrayed as gushingly pro-China, but he believes in the Chinese saying “What cannot be avoided should be welcomed.”

“I think we can do tremendous things for each other — and it’s inevitable,” he said.