Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

The United States and the United Nations have accused China of oppressing the predominantly Muslim Uighur population.

By Bloomberg

China has issued a stern warning to Walmart Inc. directed after allegations that the company’s warehouse stores in the country had stopped selling items from Xinjiang, increasing pressure on the retail giant amid growing tensions with the US over the western province.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-watchdog, has rejected suggestions that inventory management was behind the move at Sam’s Club, Walmart’s chain for members. Consumers will respond with “practical actions” if the company does not “respect the feelings of the Chinese people,” the commission said on Friday.

The warning underscores how Walmart and US companies are entangled in geopolitical tensions over Xinjiang, where the US and the United Nations have accused China of oppressing the predominantly Muslim-Uyghur population. On December 23, US President Joe Biden signed a bill banning companies from selling goods in the U.S. made with components of the province – unless they can prove that forced labor was not involved.

“Taking away all products from a region without a valid reason hides a side effect, reveals stupidity and short-sightedness, and will surely have its own bad consequences,” the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement on its website said.

Chinese social media platforms erupted in criticism of Sam’s Club last week when customers accused the company of removing items from Xinjiang.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment on China’s statement, which was previously reported by Reuters.

Human rights

Xinjiang has become a difficult issue for foreign multinational enterprises. Brands like Hennes & Mauritz and Nike Inc. was boycotted because they said they would not use Xinjiang cotton, with the Swedish retailer removed from local e-commerce platforms for its stance. Intel Corp. last week apologized to Chinese customers after asking suppliers not to use any labor or products obtained from Xinjiang to ensure compliance with US law.

Chinese officials deny that forced labor is being used in Xinjiang, citing U.S. law interference in the country’s domestic affairs.

Walmart faces a highly competitive supermarket industry in China, its largest foreign market besides Mexico. While Bentonville, Arkansas-based company pioneered the hypermarket format in China decades ago, the pressure from local competitors such as e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is increasing.

At the same time, Sam’s Club was the highlight for Walmart in the country, where the chain is seen as a premium grocery destination that sells mostly imported goods. Walmart plans to have 100 Sam’s Club stores in China by 2028, which will nearly triple the score from its current level.

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