Nike, Adidas taken off app stores in China market
Published: Mar 29, 2021 12:33 PM
Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers  
Below: Air Jordan Sneakers on display in Los Angeles, California on June 22, 2018
Photos: AFP

Nike Air Jordan 1 sneakers File photo: AFP

Nike and Adidas were taken down from several app stores in China on Monday, including those on Huawei and Xiaomi smartphones, after the sportswear brands raised controversy in China by making statements discriminating cotton produced in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

A spokesperson from Xiaomi confirmed to the Global Times on Monday that the Nike and Adidas apps, as well as their ads, were taken down from the Xiaomi app store, but the person declined to discuss why.

The sportswear makers' apps were also taken down from app stores in Huawei, OPPO and VIVO phones, all of which are mainstream Chinese cell phone brands. 

The removal of the apps most likely reflected the app stores' view that by discriminating Xinjiang cotton, the brands are infringing on the interests of the customers and breaking agreements with the app stores, Liu Dingding, an independent tech analyst, told the Global Times on Monday. 

On Huawei's website, the smartphone brand lists acts that would be deemed "inappropriate" in an app, including content that is "defamatory or malicious about religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, or other target groups."

"The apps will only be eligible for re-launch in the app stores when the issue is addressed," Liu said. 

Last Thursday, the day after Sweden-based clothing company H&M triggered a thundering condemnation by Chinese netizens over its ill-intended ban on Xinjiang cotton on fabricated "forced labor" allegations, both of the sportswear brands said in statements that they do not source products or yarn from Xinjiang.

The brands later were caught up in a backlash on China's social media, where Chinese users have vowed to boycott Adidas and Nike and support local brands.

Germany-based Adidas, one of the most popular foreign clothing brands in China, saw its share price drop by more than 6 percent on Thursday. According to media reports, the market capitalization of Adidas - together with US-based Nike - fell by more than $10.47 billion on Thursday.

The Chinese market is becoming the single most important one for Nike and Adidas, given sluggish global consumption amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to its third-quarter financial report, Nike's sales in China grew by 51 percent, offsetting declines in most other markets, giving it total growth of 3 percent. Sales of footwear were up by 50 percent and apparel by 54 percent in China.

Adidas disclosed in its 2020 annual financial report that although total global sales fell, growth of 1 percent in the Asia-Pacific region was driven "by a strong recovery" in China, where sales were up 7 percent.