The trade and propaganda war of the US and its allies against China has recently caused some friendly fire after the Chinese Youth Communist League publicly denounced a group of mainly clothing corporations that have cut supply links with Xinjiang.
Many of the corporations have a long history of enthusiastically utilising global sweatshops. Yet, as Xinjiang residents have been lifted out of poverty in recent years, these long-term exploiters have decided to claim the moral high ground on a hill built of US State department lies that are repeatedly denied and disproven by people who live in China.
The lies are numerous, contradictory and usually preposterous but in recent years have focused on the Uyghur Muslim population in China. Its most recent form is that these residents of Xinjiang are forced to pick cotton, a job which is now in fact mostly mechanised.
Allegations have been primarily flung by the regimes responsible for inflicting the majority of violence upon Muslims globally over the past few decades. New CODEPINK research revealed that the USA and its allies have dropped 46 bombs per day on the Middle East for 20 years.
The countries responsible for creating slave markets in Libya and killing millions in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria claim to now be reliable sources on Muslim’s welfare. These death cartels, the Britain, the USA and their allies, are also the empires most threatened by China’s growth and increasing co-operation with the super-exploited global south.
It is hard to believe that this is a coincidence, especially whilst Muslim majority countries the world over have happily tabled rejections of the allegations at the UN. Eighty countries have stood in defence of China’s policies in this area over the last few years whilst the waning empires have consistently represented a vocal minority.
The attacks have come as China looks to expand its belt and road initiative, which is planned to include vital corridors through the Xianjiang region. It would further connect China with Europe and more topically, help Eurasian trade flourish even when the Suez Canal has traffic jams.
Xinjiang constitutes 87% of China’s total cotton and 20% of the world’s supply. By coordinating the corporate boycotts, the West hopes to undo the huge economic gains enjoyed by the residents of Xinjiang in recent years.
However, judging by the immediate responses, the attempted economic sabotage may end up backfiring. The irony of corporations like Nike and H&M, the standard-bearers of sweatshop exploitation, pretending to be concerned about working conditions in countries that defy US hegemony, is not lost on Western citizens and has invoked memories of the many proven horror stories that have been revealed about these brands. Simultaneously, boycott of these companies in China was almost instantly given the national stamp of approval.
Celebrities, such as Hong Kong singer Eason Chan, were quick to publicly cut ties with brands like Adidas who partake in the capital strike. H&M was removed from e-commerce sites and retails apps and a number of its stores were closed. Honor of Kings, one of the world’s most played video games, rapidly cut its partnership with Burberry. “I support Xinjiang cotton” quickly became the top trending topic on Weibo and received over 4 billion views in only a few days.
The government response so far has primarily been focused on the US government for its manipulation attempts and has imposed a handful of sanctions on individuals in the accusing countries.
The companies’ upcoming economic struggle was reflected in the stock markets. Nike lost 10% of its value between last Tuesday and Thursday, and the value is still 5% below that initial level. Last Thursday also saw Adidas stock value drop more than 6%, Burberry 4% and H&M 2%.
The people in Xinjiang and across China have shown their displeasure at this coordinated attempt to prevent prosperity. Whilst America has expressed rampant paranoia about being overtaken, Beijing officials have expressed that the country’s only aim is to be a better version of itself. By the looks of things, regardless of what games the old powers play, China will keep marching towards that vision.
Mally Kakembo, is a member of the Welsh YCL