THERE IS NO ambiguity in the message the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Party’s anti-graft watchdog, has sent to US retailer Walmart: put products from Xinjiang back into its Sam’sSam’s Club stores in China or face a consumer boycott.
The need for foreign multinationals to choose which of their major markets to prioritise — China or the United States — is being ratcheted up another notch by Beijing.
In late December, Chinese social media lit up over allegations that Walmart had stopped selling items from Xinjiang at its members-only Sam’s Clubs, which, unlike their US incarnation, are upmarket hypermarkets in China. Netizens claimed they could no longer buy Xinjiang-sourced items such as apples and dates on the Sam’sSam’s Club app that were previously available, and that the groceries had been de-stocked by Walmart. Typical Xinjiang produce such as cantaloupes and apricots were available, but they were not from Xinjiang.
The flare-up emerged two days after US President Joe Biden signed into law a bill banning companies from selling goods from Xinjiang or containing Xinjiang-made components unless they can prove forced labour was not involved.
The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection’s statement pulls no punches in dismissing suggestions that this was the result of inventory management:
Removing all products from a region without a valid reason hides an ulterior motive behind it, exposes stupidity and short-sightedness, and is bound to suffer its own evil consequences…Suppressing and boycotting Xinjiang products is another “card” played by Western anti-China forces, which is doomed to failure… From H&M Group’s boycott of Xinjiang cotton, to Intel’s letter to suppliers demanding that Xinjiang labour and products be banned, to the removal of all Xinjiang products from Sam’s Club, these Western companies that once flaunted no political interference have punched themselves in the face with their own actions.
The anti-graft watchdog also noted the expected patriotism of consumers in such circumstances:
Chinese consumers expressed strong dissatisfaction and resisted with the action of returning cards, expressing their position of resolutely safeguarding national interests.
If the remedy required of Walmart — to back down — is not forthcoming, then, the Commission says, Chinese consumers will ‘respond resolutely with practical actions’.