'No wiggle room' for double-crossing ASICS in China; catastrophic economic losses to follow, say experts
Published: Mar 30, 2021 06:22 PM
An ASICS store in Shanghai Photo: VCG

An ASICS store in Shanghai Photo: VCG

Japanese sportswear company ASICS has become the latest target of a boycott by Chinese customers of foreign brands over their Xinjiang cotton ban, following a reported reversal of ASICS China branch's previous statement vowing to continue sourcing cotton from Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by the firm's head office on Sunday. 

The ASICS' head office, located in Kobe, Japan, held an emergency meeting on Sunday afternoon after the firm's China branch said on social media on Thursday that it would continue to buy cotton from Xinjiang, adhere to the one-China principle and resolutely oppose any foul acts and slanders that smear China.

However, a company spokesperson denied the stance was in line with "its official corporate position on this matter," Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Monday.

"We are currently clarifying that the statement in question was unauthorized… And we can confirm that the Australian Olympic Team uniform does not contain cotton sourced from Xinjiang and was not manufactured in this region," the ASICS spokesperson was quoted as saying by the ABC report.  

Global Times reporters found that the statement in question was deleted from the ASICS China Weibo account, and liaison personnel with the Shanghai-based ASICS China branch did not provide further information or explanations on the matter as of press time on Tuesday.

Outraged by the firm's double-crossing move, Chinese netizens flocked to the ASICS China Sina Weibo account, left comments under posts calling for a boycott, and denounced the company's fickle attitude. 

Some netizens also posted screenshots showing that they returned the merchandise of the brand they purchased on Thursday. 

Li Yifeng, a Chinese actor who has more than 60 million followers on Weibo, also promptly announced an end to his brand promotion partnership with ASICS. His studio released a statement on Weibo on Monday, in which he was quoted as saying that he"only works with those brands who support and source Xinjiang cotton, and the ASICS failed  to reach an agreement with our side in a final decision."

According to ABC, ASICS relies on the Chinese market for around 12 percent of its global sales.

Observers noted that there is no wiggle room for foreign brands such as ASICS to support claims of the so-called human rights abuse in Xinjiang abroad while trying to fool Chinese customers. 

Peking University professor Zhang Yiwu told the Global Times on Tuesday that ASICS has been caught between the overwhelming lies hyped by the Western world and the honest facts in Xinjiang, which explains the contradictory stances held by the ASICS head office and its China branch.

But there is a bottom line drawn here - the Chinese public will not allow any concession on the matter, as to continue purchasing or promoting the brand would be supporting the ill-intentioned slanders by the West, Zhang remarked. 

"ACICS has made a suicidal decision in the Chinese market, and now it is time to suffer the backlash, which could be catastrophic economic losses in China," Zhang warned. 

Xinjiang was accused of persecuting and recruiting local Uygurs for "forced labor" in picking cotton, but the data from Xinjiang's agricultural department showed that 70 percent of cotton in Xinjiang was mechanically picked in 2020. Using "forced labor" to pick cotton does not exist in the region at all, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Monday, debunking Western lies on the issue.

So far, dozens of foreign brands that heavily depend on the Chinese market, including H&M, adidas and Nike, have unwisely chosen to stand against 1.4 billion Chinese people by banning Xinjiang cotton in their products, so they are being boycotted by the Chinese public.