China Boycotts Western Clothes Brands Over Xinjiang Cotton

The Economist:

For more than a year some big foreign apparel and technology companies have been walking a fine line on the human-rights abuses committed by China against Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority in the north-western region of Xinjiang. These firms have been working to clear their supply chains of the forced labour of Uyghurs, hundreds of thousands of whom pick cotton under apparently coercive conditions. What they have not done is boast about these efforts, fearful of angering the Communist Party and 1.4bn Chinese consumers. “Usually in our work it’s easier to get companies to say they’re doing the right thing than to actually do it,” says Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC), a labour-monitoring organisation, and the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region. “On this issue, with limited exceptions, the opposite is true.”

An online furore stoked by Chinese authorities this week suggests that Beijing may be tiring of this double game. China’s government, increasingly keen to punish critics of their Xinjiang policies, is forcing foreign companies to make a choice they have been studiously trying to avoid: support China or get out of the Chinese market.

You play with fire, you eventually get burned. It seems inevitable that more and more companies doing business in China are going to run into conflict between western cultural values and CCP demands that run contrary to them.

Monday, 29 March 2021