Nike CEO John Donahoe recently made a robust defence of the firm’s business in China after facing a consumer boycott there. According to ANI, Donahoe called Nike a “brand of China and for China” in response to a question about competition from Chinese brands. He even went on to explain that Nike had a long-term view of its operations in China, where it had been operating for about four decades.

Donahoe said, “We are the largest sports brand there, and we are a brand of China and for China”. He went on to add, “And the biggest asset we have in China is the consumer equity. Consumers feel a strong, deep connection to the Nike, Jordan and Converse brands in China. And it’s real”.

Xinjiang dispute

Donahoe’s comments come amid a time when Nike has come under fire in China for a comment it made raising concerns about forced labour practices in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Back then, the brand had reassured customers that it does not source textiles or products from the region, like cotton. After the US and other Western countries responded to the forced labour allegations with sanctions, Nike’s statement was again resurfaced and resulted in calls among Chinese consumers to boycott the brand.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) also released a statement over the matter slamming foreign brands for “cutting ties” with Xinjiang cotton. The Chinese government characterised companies’ decision to avoid using cotton sourced from the region as an effort to undermine its economy. It even denied allegations of forced labour and other claims of human rights abuses in the area, which is home to about 11 million Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that speak a language closely related to Turkish and have their own distinct culture.

The rights groups, on the other hand, accused Beijing of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour. The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action over the allegations. The US State Department estimates that since 2017, up to two million Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other ethnic minorities could have passed through the camp system, which China calls vocational training centres designed to fight extremism. Reports by Western media have also revealed that Chinese authorities were deliberately sending Uyghur woman of childbearing age into forced abortions, intrauterine injections and sterilisation in the region.

(With inputs from ANI)