An overnight social media storm . . .
Nike, H&M, Adidas, and Tommy Hilfiger are facing the wrath of Chinese netizens after the Communist Youth League posted a year-old statement overnight by H&M expressing concern over reports of forced labour in Xinjiang Autonomous Region’s cotton fields. Similar historical statements by Nike, Adidas, and Tommy Hilfiger were also circulated. The Youth League's post quickly went viral, first being retweeted on Weibo, one of China's largest social media platforms, and then receiving public condemnation from the Global Times, a newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party. Chinese netizens have called for boycotts of these brands, and some have been removed from prominent Chinese e-commerce platforms.
Punishment for Western sanctions . . .
The reemergence of these past corporate statements comes on the heels of the U.S., the EU, the U.K., and Canada jointly issuing sanctions on Monday against Chinese officials for human rights abuses against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic minority in Xinjiang. The boycott organizers accuse these brands of sullying China's reputation and spreading false and malicious rumours. This is not the first time Chinese consumers have boycotted foreign retailers over perceived grievances. Previous boycotts escalated to violence against foreign corporations' employees and retail spaces in China, spurring some Chinese netizens this time around to caution against abusing the Chinese staff of Nike and H&M in retaliation for statements issued from corporate headquarters.
Corporations caught in the middle . . .
The overnight eruption of Chinese consumer anger over statements critical of China highlights multinational companies' vulnerability when some are increasingly seeing significant revenue growth come from Greater China. Over the past decade, Nike has seen the share of its global revenue attributed to China nearly double, with Greater China accounting for almost one-fifth (17.9 per cent) of the company’s revenue in 2020. Stock markets were quick to react to the fervour this morning. The S&P slipped shortly after the market opened, with the fall headed up by Nike, whose shares fell six per cent this morning.
- Barron’s: U.S.-China tensions are rising. Nike stock is paying the price
- Bloomberg: H&M slammed on China’s social media over cotton comment
- South China Morning Post: China presses global fashion brands to reverse Xinjiang cotton boycott