Nike is claiming that its values align with how it operates in communist China. The company has made similar pro-China remarks in recent months which many believe is an attempt to appease the Chinese communist regime. Nike suffered bad publicity in the country after it had issued a statement against the use of Uyghur forced labor.
In an interview with CNBC, Nike CEO Jack Donahoe stated that his company’s operations are aligned with communist China’s values, including throughout the supply chain. He stressed that communist China is a “very important” market for Nike. He highlighted the brand’s four-decade presence there. The company runs more than 7,000 stores in the country through Chinese partners. Nike is the number one sports brand in Tmall, a Chinese business-to-consumer online retail site. As of June 2021, Tmall was the most visited website in communist China and the third most visited globally.
“We have a long-term history in China… We take a very long-term view with China… We’ll continue to invest in China while also operating a very responsible global supply chain… We connect the consumers in markets all over the world… I could say, go into any country around the world and consumers in that market consider Nike a brand of their market for them. And that’s one of the reasons Nike has been so globally successful,” Donahoe said.
During a call with Wall Street analysts in June, Donahoe had said that Nike was a brand that is “of China and for China.” He made the comments in response to a question about competition from Chinese brands. Donahoe highlighted the fact that Nike was the “largest sports brand” in the country. The company is confident that communist China will continue to be a fast-growing market for them.
Donahoe’s comments came after Nike faced severe criticism from communist China for taking a stance on Uyghur forced labor. In a March statement, Nike said that it was “concerned about reports of forced labor” in the Xinjiang region. It insisted that the company’s internal investigation “had not found evidence of Uyghurs” being used as forced labor in their supply chains.
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“While Nike does not directly source cotton or other raw materials, traceability at the raw materials level is an area of ongoing focus. We are working closely with our suppliers, industry associations, brands, and other stakeholders to pilot traceability approaches and map material sources so we can have confidence the materials in our products are responsibly produced,” the company’s statement said.
Chinese citizens lashed out at Nike; some burned the brand’s apparel and shoes. After the company’s statements began circulating online, it attracted over one million conversation threads in just six hours.
“I burned all my Nikes. This is a matter of national pride. We will not be humiliated,” one Weibo user stated. Nike’s shares also fell as a result. Though the company’s fourth-quarter earnings in communist China rose by more than $1.9 billion, it was still below Wall Street expectations of $2.2 billion.
Black Lives Matter vs Uyghurs
Many people in the free world have criticized Nike’s double standards regarding human rights and social justice. It openly supports the Black Lives Matter movement and then turns a blind eye to the Uyghur genocide.
Last June, the company announced $40 million over a four-year period to “support the black community” in America, noting that the country has seen “systemic racism” unfold over the previous weeks.
“We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates,” Donahoe said in a statement. The following month, Nike promoted Felicia Mayo as its new head of diversity. Mayo is a black woman who previously worked at Tesla.
In an article at the Washington Examiner, Bishop Aubrey Shines accused Nike of rushing to the “altar of Black Lives Matter” and bending the knee in “supplication to the new religion of wokeness.” Shines is the founder of Glory to Glory Ministries and the chairman of the Conservative Clergy of Color.
Shines asks why Nike was not “bending over backward” to make amends with the Uyghurs when the community is “actually dealing with real oppression.” Shines calls out Nike for not cutting off ties with China given that its products are made with “slave labor enforced by the communist government.”
“Nike has no problem selling out to an organization — [BLM] — that wants to fundamentally restructure society and impose Marxism, but don’t ask it to grapple with the communist system that is enslaving the Uighur people in China — slavery off of which Nike is profiting… Nike can crusade against ‘oppression,’ but it will have a sour taste as long as it continues to profit from Uighur suffering. Until Nike acknowledges real oppression, no African American should bother purchasing its tainted goods,” Shines wrote.
Nike was one of the companies that lobbied Washington to weaken the Uyghur Forced Labor Act. The legislation prevents the import of Chinese goods produced using forced labor from Xinjiang. It was passed by the Senate on July 14, 2021.