Allegations that China is engaging in human rights abuses against a Muslim ethnic minority group, abuses which include forced labor in factories and imprisonment in "reeducation centers," resulted in sanctions against the Chinese government and condemnation from retailers who source cotton from the region where the detention centers are located.
The backlash from China's state media and Chinese consumers was not exactly swift, but six months later, its effects are beginning to be felt. Prominent international retailers such as H&M, Nike, and Uniqlo are facing a boycott from Chinese consumers, social media platforms, and e-commerce sites.
It's a tricky situation for international retailers, whose supply chains depend on China and whose brands benefit from the business of Chinese consumers.
As tensions between the US and China heat up, Western companies will have more than a consumer boycott to worry about. Given China’s standing as the second-largest cotton producer in the world, many retailers and brands that sell cotton products will likely have to reassess their ties with Chinese suppliers, who either have direct or indirect ties to the Xinjiang region.