Why H&M, Nike and others are boycotting in China

Last week, calls for the cancellation of H&M and other Western brands crossed Chinese social media as human rights campaigns clashed with cotton sourcing and the political game. Here you need to know what is going on and how it can affect everything from your t-shirt to your trench coat.

Is this all I hear about fashion brands and China? Did anyone make another dumb racist ad?

No, it’s more complicated than one Offensive and Explicit Cultural Defects. The issue centers on China’s Xinjiang region and allegations of forced labor in the cotton industry – allegations denied by the Chinese government. Last summer, many Western brands The statements issued express concern About human rights in their supply chain. Some also cut ties with the region.

Now, months later, the chickens are coming to roost in the house: Chinese netizens are reacting with fury, charging the charges is a crime for the state. Leading Chinese e-commerce platforms have kicked off major international labels from their sites, and celebrities have condemned their former foreign employers.

Why is this such a big deal?

topic is Growing political and economic implications. On the one hand, as the epidemic continues to swirl in the global retail sector, consumers become more attentive to who makes their clothes and how they are treated, putting pressure on the brand to keep their values ​​where their Products. Another, China has become an evergreen important selling center for fashiony, given its scale and the fact that there is less disruption than other major markets such as Europe. Then, international politicians are also banning and banning the act. Fashion has become a diplomatic football.

This is a complete case study of what happens when market imperatives against global ethics.

Tell me more about Xinjiang and why it is so important.

Xinjiang is an area in northwest China that accounts for about one-fifth of the world’s cotton production. It is home to several ethnic groups, most notably the Uygars, a Muslim minority. Although it is officially the largest of China’s five autonomous regions, meaning it has more legislative self-control, the central government is becoming increasingly involved in the region, saying that Han has been struggling with local conflicts with the Chinese. The reason is that it should get its authority (ethnic majority) who are moving to the region. Has resulted in Drakeian Sanctions, Surveillance, Criminal Prosecutions and Forced Labor Camps.

Okay, and what about the Uygars?

According to official figures released by Chinese authorities, the Uygar population of Xinjiang, a predominantly Muslim Turkic group, is over 12 million. maximum One million Uygars And other Muslim minorities have withdrawn to become model workers, who are obedient to forced labor programs with the Chinese Communist Party.

So this has been going on for some time?

At least since 2016. but later new York Times, Wall Street Journal, The spindle And others published reports that linked Uygar to forced detention at the supply chains of many of the world’s well-known fashion retailers, including Adidas, Lacoste, H&M, Ralph Lauren and PVH Corporation, which included Calvin Silvin and Tommy Hilfiger Is the owner of. The brands redefined their relationships with Xinjiang-based cotton suppliers.

In January, the Trump administration All imports of cotton banned From the region, as well as products made of materials and declared what is happening ”Massacre“At the time, the Workers’ Rights Consortium estimated that Xinjiang’s materials contained more than 1.5 billion garments imported annually by American brands and retailers.

this is too much! How do I know that I am wearing a cloth made of Xinjiang cotton?

not you. The supply chain is so complex and subcontracting so common that it is often difficult for brands to know for themselves where and how every component of their clothing is made.

So if this has been an issue for more than a year, then why is everyone in China wandering now?

It is not immediately clear. One theory is that this is due to a ramp-up in political brittleness between China and the West. On 22 March, Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United States Sanctions announced On Chinese authorities in a growing row for the treatment of Uygars in Xinjiang.

After a long time, screenshots from a statement by H&M in September 2020 citing “deep concerns” about reports of forced labor in Xinjiang, and confirming that the retailer ceased buying cotton from growers in the area Had started circulating on Chinese social media. The result was fast and furious. There were calls for a boycott, and H&M products were soon missing from China’s most popular e-commerce platform, Alibaba Group’s TML and JD.com. Comments from groups like microblogging site Sina Weibo created uproar Communist youth league, An influential Communist Party organization.

Within hours, other big western brands like Nike and Burberry started trending for the same reason.

And it’s not just for consumers who are up in arms: influencers and celebrities are also breaking ties with brands. Even video games are bouncing virtual “looks” created by Berbery from their platforms.

Backtrack: What do the influencers have to do with all this?

Influencers in China exert even more power over consumer behavior, as they do in the West, meaning they play an important role in legitimizing brands and increasing sales. When Tao Liang, otherwise known as Mr. Bag, collaborated with Givenchy, for example, the bags sold out in 12 minutes; A necklace-bracelet set with a necklace that reportedly sold out one moment (100 were built there). This is why H&M worked with Victoria Song, Wang Yibo with Nike, and Zhou Dongyu with Burberry.

But Chinese-influenced and famous celebrities are also sensitive to please the central government and publicly reaffirm their national values, often choosing their country on contract.

For example, in 2019, Yang Mi, a Chinese actress and a Versace ambassador, publicly denied the brand when she made the mistake of creating a T-shirt listing Hong Kong and Macau as independent countries, which ‘ Seemed to dismiss “One China”. Policy and sovereignty of central government. Not long afterward, the coach was targeted after making a similar mistake, creating a tee that was named separately Hong Kong and Taiwan; Chinese supermodel Liu Wen immediately distanced herself from the brand.

And what’s with video games?

Tencent Removed two barbaric “skins” – outfits worn by video game characters that the brand introduced with great pomp – from its headline title Honor of kings As a response to the news that the brand had stopped buying cotton production Xinjiang Area. Feeling available for less than a week.

So it is rapidly killing both fashion and high end. How involved is the fashion world?

Potentially, most of it. So far Adidas, Nike, Converse and Burberry have all been in trouble. Even before the ban, additional companies such as Patagonia, PVH, Marks & Spencer and Gap had announced that they were not taking material from Xinjiang and officially took a stand against human rights abuses.

This week, however, several brands quietly including VF Corp., Inditex (which owns Zara) and PVH to be shelved Their policies against forced labor from their websites.

It sounds squirrel. Is it likely to increase?

Brands feel that the answer is yes, because, apparently out of fear of being angered by the Chinese government, some companies have consistently announced that they will continue to buy cotton from Xinjiang. Hugo Boss, A German company whose lawsuit is virtually identical to the financial world, posted a statement on Weibo saying, “We will continue to buy and support Xinjiang cotton” (even though the company announced last fall, But it was no longer sourcing. Area). Japanese brand Muji is also proudly stating the use of Xinjiang cotton on its Chinese websites, As is uniclo.

Wait… I am getting a game of possession, but why would any company publicly show their loyalty to Xinjiang cotton?

This is about Benjamin, friend. According to A report by Bain & Company Released in December last year, China is expected to be the world’s largest luxury market by 2025. Last year it was the only part of the world that registered a year-over-year growth, with the luxury market reaching 44 billion euros ($ 52.2 billion).

Is anyone going to leave this well?

One set of winners could be the Chinese fashion industry, which has long played a second role for Western brands, to the dismay of many businesses. Xinjiang shares rose sharply this week, with shares of Chinese apparel groups and textile companies. And more than 20 Chinese brands publicly made statements in support of Chinese cotton.

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