According to news coverage by Sohu News, on April 3, the first holiday of Ching Ming Festival, an army of young people were lining up outside one of the Adidas specialty stores in Shijiazhuang prefecture level city in Hebei waiting to go on a shopping spree. A netizen in China posted a comment saying that the Adidas stores located in where he lived were also swarming with customers, while some said there were only sporadic customers in the Adidas stores in the immediate proximity of where they resided. It is highly possible that the boycott against overseas brands such as H&M and Nike this time started with a bang but will end up with a whimper.
Since March 24, official media such as Global Times have been criticizing in a high-profile manner a few foreign sportswear and fashion brands including H&M and Nike for signing a statement last year to impose sanctions on cotton from Xinjiang as a member of the Better Cotton Initiative(BCI), arousing the wrath of patriotic netizens on the mainland. In the first few days, netizens in some cities amassed outside the specialty stores of those overseas brands, yelling out slogans and wielding banners in protest, even hampering people from shopping inside. Meanwhile, 40 artistes from the mainland, Taiwan and Hong Kong made patriotic statements, breaking off with those brands, terminating projects with and work of being ambassadors for them. Back then, Global Times still praised the artistes for their great act for the public good. For a while, seemingly the boycott against those foreign brands gained momentum, so that MUJI and HUGO BOSS were thrown into a panic, showing support for using cotton from Xinjiang at one time while declaring they would not use cotton from Xinjiang at another. Worse still, some H&M, Nike and Adidas stores had to be closed until further notice.
However, before a week was over when the wrath was still smouldering, Global Times came forward in a rush to snuff it out, noting that some people hurled invectives furiously to promote “accelerationism” before the artistes made a response. It also said that the extreme behavior in the boycott movements in early years ended up with losses of domestic shop owners. The editor in chief even said: “I do not hope that the “political correctness” concerning our society and lives of the masses is airtight; it is necessary to leave a crevice there.” What it implies is that people should not be forced to show support for the boycott against those overseas brands.
Moreover, People’s Daily also jumped on the bandwagon to cool down the movement. The ones benefited most in this fad of boycotting overseas brands are local sneakers brands. Not only did their sales volumes rocket up, but also speculation momentum was stirred up, as evidenced by a record price, 100 thousand yuan, of a pair of Li Ning sneakers bid on an online shopping platform. A financial commentary released on People’s Daily Online accused some speculators in sneakers of taking advantage of the occasion to crusade to the market of sneakers made in China, fanning the flames of disorder, and ditching ethics and bottom line for making a killing. The article accentuates that shoes are produced for wearing, not scalping. Considerably distanced from the reality, the article is wanting in understanding of the sneakers market. Is there a good market for sneakers with no appreciation potential? Some shoes are manufactured for wearing, while some for speculation. The two objectives are not mutually exclusive, but the official media confuse one with another. Are they ignorant or did they really want to cool down the movement? In China, commodities for scalping are more than enough, about which official media, however, stay reticent.
In fact, the handwriting is on the wall that this wave of boycott against foreign brands is a lost cause. When the raging tide of patriotism was still brewing, a netizen uploaded a post, pointing out that LVMH is also a member of BCI, stressing that only LVMH among all French upmarket goods takes part in the joint action to impose sanctions on cotton from Xinjiang. Nevertheless, at that time there were quite a number of Chinese netizens posting comments to espouse LV, saying that “it’s one of the members, but it’s OK as long as it doesn’t release a statement”, “so long as it doesn’t issue a declaration like H&M and Nike”, “the scope this time is way too extensive”. Someone even left a comment on LV’s official website: “Hope (LV) won’t impose sanctions on cotton from Xinjiang or else (I) will have nothing to put on and no bags to clutch at.” At the same time, Nike and H&M offered discounts, which drew in a large number of customers as usual. It didn’t seem that the brands were being boycotted.
Declaration of one’s stand on Xinjiang cotton more a loss than gain
If this boycott movement is really a lost cause, the most pathetic ones will of course be those breaking off with the brands in no time, not least Eason Chan. He declared terminating his cooperation with Adidas that he had worked with for more than ten years as soon as the event broke out. It is reported that he has to indemnify Adidas with $60 million. Even if he is required to pay no compensation, or a smaller amount, he will be denounced harshly by his fans from Taiwan and Hong Kong, and offered way less opportunities than before to work with international brands in the days to come, for he was the most high-profile and attention-grabbing one. If the boycott winds up a farce out and out(highly likely), all the artistes inclusive of Eason Chan, the most prominent one, will be the most pathetic losers for they fail to make themselves more impressive, as well as suffering a loss of a huge amount of money. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who jumped out to distance herself from Burberry, is not much better, as she will also be teased about her being a dimwit. This is the price they have to pay for being ignorant of the game rules of China’s politics.
Nike is a sponsor for the Chinese Football Association(CFA) Super League, China national football team, the Chinese Basketball Association and the Chinese Athletic Association. The CFA and professional league preparatory group are “highly concerned” about it, and have urgently held an internal meeting, after which they condemned Nike for its “wrong doing”, reserved the right to “further deal with the contract with Nike”. Yet, China’s Football Newspaper took down the news report from the shelf soon, and the CFA has since been staying silent on the matter. The Chinese Basketball Association has never uttered a word about it all the way through. What does it really mean by the higher ups having policies while the lower downs having their own ways of getting around them? More empty rhetoric when paying lip service while lower profile when cooperating with foreign brands, that’s it. Who would’ve taken it as seriously as Eason?
(Poon Siu-to, veteran journalist)
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