The Chinese Communist Party is urging a nationwide boycott of foreign brands over their stance on Xinjiang. Swedish apparels brand H&M was the first hit by the boycott following its statement against alleged use of forced labor to produce cotton in Xinjiang.
Other foreign brand such as Nike, Adidas, Zara, Converse, Uniqlo are also caught in the firestorm that has erupted in China this week. Videos of Chinese netizens destroying products of these brands have gone viral. Shopping malls were seen pulling down billboards of these brands. Several dozens of celebrities have quickly cut ties with these brands. H&M products were removed from Tmall.com, a Chinese e-commerce giant. Reality TV show “Youth with You 3”, in which candidates routinely wear Adidas apparels during filming, has announced delayed airing. The show is said to be either re-filming the upcoming episodes or blurring out brand logos on candidates’ clothes in modified episodes.
According to CCP mouthpiece QQ News, Swedish organization Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is singled out as the first mover in ceasing all field-level activities in Uyghur region back in October 2020. This is said to trigger cotton boycotts from the above-mentioned brands, nearly all of which are members of BCI. The piece on QQ News even goes to say that “boycotting Xinjiang cotton is a conspiracy over one year in the making”. Sensing the government’s narrative, Chinese native clothing brands such as Anta has announced withdrawing its membership with the BCI.
Bearing in mind that all trending topics on Chinese social media are tightly monitored and controlled by the CCP, hashtag “I support Xinjiang cotton” is trending on social media this week, and “hot search” charts of Chinese internet is dominated by this topic. Uyghur actress Tong Liya’s post of the hashtag is among the heavily promoted by Chinese media. Other Uyghur-origin actors urge people to go and visit Xinjiang themselves “to see hardworking and happy Uyghurs working in the fields”. This comes as no surprise as movie and pop stars must speak and act along the Party lines to survive China’s entertainment market.
The CCP is a master at stoking nationalism to suit its own agenda – in this case to promote the idea that the genocide in Xinjiang is justified. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying accused US of “projection” for calling out “forced labor” given slavery in the US history. According to CCP, any notion that suggests oppression exists in Xinjiang region is ludicrous. Xinjiang cotton is “white and pure”, and the idea of “forced labor” constitutes malicious smearing of Chinese people and China as a nation. Hua went on to say “Chinese people’s will is not to be defied”.
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