Stock Market

Opinion: China sabotages its economic future by escalating tiff with West over forced labor of Uighurs

CLAREMONT, Calif. (Project Syndicate)—Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that will enable it to thrive, despite the country’s geopolitical contest with the United States.

But before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success.


Xi is now undermining his own good work, by poisoning relations with critical trading partners.

The 14th Five-Year Plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China will aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This will not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it will also increase the reliance of its major trading partners—except the U. S.—on access to its market and increasingly high-tech manufactures.

Crucial negotiation with Europeans

China has been laying the groundwork for this strategy for a while. Notably, at the end of last year, President Xi Jinping concluded the Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) with the European Union. He had to make some concessions to get there, but it was worth it: the deal had the potential not only to deepen EU-China ties, but also to drive a wedge between Europe and the U.S.

But Xi is now undermining his own good work, by poisoning relations with critical trading partners. Over the last couple of weeks, China has blacklisted several members of the European ParliamentBritish and Canadian lawmakers, and academics and research institutions in Europe and the United Kingdom.

China announces retaliatory U.K. sanctions

Related News  Poshmark takes inspiration from old-school retail to create an experience for the future

To be sure, the sanctions were retaliatory: the EU, the U.K., and Canada had sanctioned a small number of Chinese officials who are implicated in ongoing human-rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. While these abuses are nothing new, recent reports that forced Uighur labor is being used to harvest cotton have brought them to the fore.


China’s antagonistic response to concerns over the use of forced labor in Xinjiang suggests that its leaders believe that the Chinese market is simply too lucrative for Western firms or governments to abandon. They may be overplaying their hand.

China is sanctioning its critics to display its indignation at these accusations, which it insists are politically motivated lies. But whatever message the sanctions are supposed to send, they are unlikely to be worth the cost.

China’s interests

Canada, Europe, and the U.K. have so far remained relatively neutral in the Sino-American rivalry—and it is in China’s interests that they stay that way. China can afford an economic decoupling with the U.S. (though it will be costly). It cannot afford a simultaneous decoupling with the rest of the major Western economies.

Already, the CAI is under threat. The agreement still needs to be approved by the European Parliament. But, to protest Chinese sanctions against some of its members, the Parliament canceled a recent meeting to discuss it. Some lawmakers now argue that China should ratify the International Labor Organization’s conventions on forced labor before the CAI is ratified.

Further undermining its economic prospects, China is attacking private corporations for having expressed concerns over forced-labor allegations. Last year, the Swedish apparel retailer H & M
HNNMY,
-0.22%

 announced that it would no longer use cotton sourced in Xinjiang, because it was too difficult to conduct “credible due diligence” there.

Related News  Momentus brings 'last mile' delivery to satellites launched on any rocket
Bullying tactics

As the conversation about Xinjiang cotton has heated up, H & M’s statement has resurfaced—and drawn a barrage of criticism. China’s leading e-commerce companies have pulled H & M products from their platforms, and Chinese celebrities have canceled deals with the brand. And, encouraged by state media, a movement to boycott H & M—as well as other Western brands that refuse Xinjiang cotton, including Nike
NKE,
-2.01%
,
New Balance, and Burberry
BRBY,
+1.01%

—is gathering steam.

H&M, Nike, other clothing brands boycotted in China over Xinjiang sanctions

China seems confident that its bullying tactics will succeed. After all, Western multinationals don’t want to be driven out of China, an important growth market. And, indeed, H & M has already released a new statement highlighting its “long-term commitment” to China and expressing its dedication to “regaining the trust and confidence” of its “customers, colleagues, and business partners” there.

Nonetheless, China may be overplaying its hand. Just as Western multinationals want to sell their goods to Chinese consumers, Chinese firms need these companies to keep sourcing inputs from them. These are mutually dependent relationships.

Bottom line

Moreover, while the size of China’s market may be appealing enough to draw concessions from multinationals, it is not worth jeopardizing their reputations in the West, which still accounts for the vast majority of their revenues.

For example, H & M’s top two markets are the U.S. and Germany; China is its third-largest market, but accounted for about only 5% of its total revenue in 2020.

Related News  Climate change and COVID-19 to feature in final debate between Trump and Biden — when and where to watch

In other words, H & M can afford to lose access to the Chinese market. But its 621 Chinese suppliers may not be able to afford losing H & M as a buyer. More broadly, an exodus of Western multinationals from China would inevitably force the supply chains that serve them to move as well, resulting in the closure of Chinese factories and the loss of millions of jobs.

There is still time for China’s government to reverse course. That means, for starters, allowing independent experts to conduct an investigation of cotton farms in Xinjiang. If China really isn’t using forced labor, this is the best way to prove it—and improve relations with Western businesses and governments.

But such a sensible response seems unlikely, not least because China’s leaders remain convinced that its market is simply too important to abandon. They should recall that, not too long ago, they were absolutely certain that the U.S. could not afford an economic decoupling from China. They were wrong then, and they may well be wrong now. The difference is that, this time, China cannot afford a decoupling, either.

This commentary was published with permission of Project SyndicateChina’s Economic Self-Harm

Minxin Pei is professor of government at Claremont McKenna College and a nonresident senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

For more updates check below links and stay updated with News AKMI.
Life and Style || Lifetime Fitness || Automotive News || Tech News || Giant Bikes || Cool Cars || Food and Drinks

Source

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button

usa news wall today prime news newso time news post wall

Close