Boycott Backlash is a new factor. So often the West fails to understand China and gets things so wrong as a consequence. To start at the beginning, the Chinese children at school, high school and university are given a clear introduction to their history. Whereas in the UK we have learned about William The Conqueror, and Henry VIII and his six wives, in China the emphasis is much more balanced between the past and the present. It is a continuum with a blend of events of yesterday and today to produce a coherent set of views and beliefs which act as a prism to consider current political issues. So, today’s Boycott Backlash goes back even further than the Opium Wars and the sacking of the Summer Palace – but those two events have a bearing when countries try to “talk down” to China. Pause and ask yourself what it would mean to current UK history if Chinese troops had destroyed Buckingham Palace and then Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon in 1885. There would be a popular instant recall by people of the UK today of such events were China to “lecture the UK” on how to behave.
All nations remember the injustices carried out by enemies and invaders and the Chinese are no different. They were the weakest country in the East in the second half of the 19th Century because the foreign countries were permitted by weak Chinese leaders to carve out areas of influence in China. China was humiliated. It was being pushed around in its own country by foreign powers – especially the UK who foisted Opium on the Chinese as a way of paying for UK purchases of Chinese tea – black and green. When UK Foreign Secretary Raab encourages UK companies to reduce trade in products using Xinjiang cotton, he does not simply arouse the anger of the Chinese government but also the Chinese people and this is where the Boycott Backlash comes into play.
The Chinese people are generally very supportive of their own country. Some years back when a US missile destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the police on the streets of China battled to prevent Chinese protestors from taking revenge on US property in China. The warning was there but the West did not learn its lesson and now that Western nations are ganging up on China, the people of China come into play and they will hurt those foreign companies who fall in with their own government’s pressure to boycott products made with Xinjiang cotton. And this is just the beginning – the Chinese consumer will become a key player in East-West politics. They will know which companies in which countries have bowed to pressure from their governments to reject textiles made of Xinjiang cotton and those companies will find that their business turnover will fall quickly.
And if you want to see the wider picture then consider other companies and other countries that try to interfere with day-to-day business. This will set companies and their shareholders in the UK and other countries against the governments where they carry on their business. All foreign businesses counting on the Chinese market for future prosperity will think again before they bow to pressure and join a politically inspired boycott of specified Chinese products. The Chinese consumer has commercial muscle.