Global brands should avoid Xinjiang hack-trap
Published: Mar 28, 2021 09:03 PM
Xinjiang cotton Photo: VCG

Xinjiang cotton Photo: VCG

Sometimes in life the best defense is a strong offense. That time has finally arrived and I for one could not be more pleased that is the case. 

Several weeks earlier, I had predicted that in the face of an endless barrage of false accusations this past year, the Chinese government would finally, as it well should, become more aggressive in defending its honor and integrity in the face of allegations which are so egregiously inappropriate in nature. I am referring, of course, to the announcement of Chinese government sanctions against EU, UK, US and Canadian officials and organizations along with the online uproar among Chinese consumer netizens who are righteously fighting back and boycotting famous fashion brands like H&M, Nike and Adidas, among others, for their disrespectful and shortsighted statements regarding cotton workers in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. 

Some might find such assertions on my part to be just more "Chinese propaganda." To this, I offer some simple observations and questions with no apology as I intend with full commitment to support any and all sanctions and boycotts to stop the individual people, organizations and companies involved in an apparently coordinated attack spewing these anti-China lies. Enough is enough. 

First of all, notice how the narrative has suddenly shifted away from "genocide" to "forced labor" this past month. Why might that be the case? Because those who have spent the past few months pushing along the preposterous genocide accusation have been hit with an avalanche of evidence thoroughly debunking their accusations. Of course, in the face of such embarrassment, political hacks don't show their integrity by apologizing or retracting their lies. They just quietly move on to a new narrative so that they continue the harassment of their target. 

Occasionally, companies do make real blunders in the Chinese marketplace, such as the well known public relations and market debacle created by Dolce & Gabbana. Dolce & Gabbana learned the hard way to show respect to their host country and its consumers. Their insensitive "chopsticks" ad caught the attention of China's netizens, who were deeply offended and stood up to boycott the brand. 

With that in mind, here we are today. Companies like Nike and H&M expressed concern about the alleged use of Uygur "forced labor" in cotton production.

The most frustrating part about this topic is that addressing it should be completely unnecessary in the first place. We are only having to respond to a handful of virtue signaling, self-serving politicians making these ridiculous accusations. This leads me to the good, satisfying news: It is extraordinarily easy in this case to debunk and disprove these forced labor accusations.  

All one has to do is to look to the statements of respected global brand companies like Skechers and Muji, who have repeatedly stated in unambiguous crystal clear terms that they have over many years conducted audits both announced and unannounced and have never found such forced labor violations. Case closed, of course, because there never was a case to begin with. 

We then compare this to the recent messaging from H&M and Nike, which in fact are written to be intentionally vague, without making any specific reference to any specific forced labor violation ever found simply because they have never found one. 

Thus, Chinese netizens picked up on fast the virtue signaling language nonsense and rallied to defend both their country and most importantly, the Uygur people themselves.  

It serves to defend the Uygur people, their rich culture, and the prosperity of Xinjiang as a whole. 

There are circumstances which crop up from time to time that causes a global brand in China to make a public statement in response to political pressures. This puts such brands in a tough position. 

And in being in such an important and sensitive position, they should at least resist the temptation to kowtow to political nonsense and show China and its people, including its Uygurs and other 50 plus minority groups, the respect they deserve. 

Hopefully, H&M, Nike, Adidas any other brands who jump on these political campaign bandwagons will quickly realize their folly, reverse course, and do their best to reverse the far-reaching damage done. Leave the US, UK, Canadian and other disgraceful political hacks to their games. 

The author is CEO of M Communications Group and a senior fellow of the Center for China & Globalization. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn