The founder and CEO of Japanese causal-wear brand Uniqlo Tadashi Yanai said in a recent interview that his company refused to comment on whether they use cotton from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region because they don”t want to get sucked into the US-China rivalry.
“The US approach is to force companies to show their allegiance. I wanted to show that I won’t play the game,” he said.
The United States’ attacks on Xinjiang cotton are groundless. But by spreading rumors and lies about forced labor in Xinjiang, the US is trying to destroy the prosperity and stability of the autonomous region and curb China’s development. It claims to be doing this for the Uygur people, but actually it is hurting the interests of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang, the Uygur people among them.
Further, the US is trying to give substance to its lies and put economic pressure on China by forcing global enterprises to take sides by requiring them to announce they will not use Xinjiang cotton. Such political coercion is totally against market rules and business ethics and hurts all the companies concerned.
For the international community, the US’ deeds threaten the stability of the global supply chains and disturb the international trade order. For its allies and other countries, the US’ deeds drag them into the dilemma of having to choose sides. For the US itself, its deeds also hurt the interests of its own companies and destroy its own credibility.
Uniqlo’s gesture should not be simply interpreted as refusing to choose sides so as to maintain its economic interests. It is rather defense of a fundamental principle in international affairs, namely that no power should bully any other country or force other countries or businesses to take its side in its competition with another country.
Uniqlo’s stance can also serve as a lesson to all businesses. With its influence and economic strength, the US is trying to bully China over Xinjiang, but in the future it might adopt the same tricks against any other nation, its “friends” and “allies” included.
The courage of speaking out might be a privilege that belongs to companies such as Uniqlo, but the absolute majority of global enterprises must know the truth. Xinjiang cotton is produced by hardworking Xinjiang people, and more enterprises should stand up and reject the US’ political ploys.