The clothing brand H&M is finding out what it’s like when China plays hard ball.
The Swedish company made a decision to stop buying cotton from Xinjiang recently, and that triggered a series of events that included the Chinese state media calling for a boycott, and subsequently H&M clothing has been scrubbed from Chinese online sites including Alibaba and JD.com.
H&M is certainly going to feel the effects since over 20% of shopping in China is done online.
The pressure is on brands to distance themselves from abuses allegedly going on in Xinjiang. According to foreign governments and researchers, over 1 million members of the Uyghur and other Muslim ethnic minorities have been placed in detention camps. Authorities there are also accused of forcing coercive birth control measures on women.
The Chinese government is denying those charges and claims the camps are for job training to support economic development.
It’s not clear if the online sites were ordered by the Chinese government to remove H&M’s presence because its customary for companies to fall in line without being told. The state media in China is causing H&M and other brands doing business in China of profiting while they are simultaneously criticizing China.
Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group said companies in China have little choice but to fall in line. “It’s a form of self-preservation.”