Casting more doubt on Zenz‘ slavery narrative is the fact that China‘s development is increasingly high-tech. Xinjiang agriculture reports in 2019 detail that nearly 70 percent of cotton was machine picked which contrasts with Zenz‘ claim that 70 percent is picked by hand
A harvesting machine picks cotton in a field in Shaya county, Aksu, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in October. [Photo/Xinhua] The “Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act” came into force on June 22. It assumes that any product, either partly or wholly, made in China‘s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is linked to forced labor. As such, at the risk of facing a $250,000 fine, both US and non-US importers must prevent Xinjiang-related products from entering the US.
The problem with this act is that it is based on a stack of lies concocted to justify aggressive actions to prevent China‘s rise. For the powers that be it’s nothing personal but merely a continuation of former tactics. Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction and Afghanistan didn’t attack the US Nevertheless, they were both victims of two of the greatest human rights crimes of this century.
With this in mind, it is telling that the Global South and the Arab world all stand with China against claims as ridiculous as genocide and slavery while it is the very countries that participated in the aforementioned crimes that propagate claims of slavery. Unlike small developing states that the US and its allies destroyed, China cannot be steamrolled over. Consequently, distortions surrounding the basis of the UFLPA have started to become increasingly known.
Sources to Xinjiang‘s force labor go back to Adrian Zenz, who works for the not so unbiasedly named Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which counts Nazi deaths during WWII as victims of communism. Zenz also deals with the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington think-tank, with former top military board members who were responsible for mass drone strikes in Afghanistan.
Anyway, besides the murky swamp of US hegemony that Zenz treads in, what is more important is whether his claims are true or not. Much of his writing is based around convincing the world that Xinjiang‘s cotton industry is founded on forced labor which he even goes so far as to say “may” amount to enslavement. His advice to the US government is to follow the policy encapsulated in the UFLPA, which will cut off 20 percent of the world’s cotton production that comes from Xinjiang. Consequently, the Uygurs are being subjected to an economic war that attempts to increase discontent in Xinjiang.
Zenz also advises foreign companies to check on labor practices in Xinjiang, especially in the cotton industry. The China branch of the Better Cotton Initiative said, in March 2021, that since it started conducting audits, in 2012, it had never found any signs of forced labor. Likewise, the German automobile manufacturer Volkswagen in its interview with the BBC, in November 2020, said there was no forced labor in its factories in Xinjiang.
When it comes to Zenz‘ cotton slave claims there seems to be more than a little projection going on. Ironically, we have claims of forced labor and even genocide coming from a US-funded organization that is sympathetic with Nazi Germany. Then the claims of an ethnic group enslaved on cotton plantations appear to have been plagiarized from the darkest days of US history.
Reading Zenz‘ report on forced cotton-picking labor in Xinjiang there were no accounts of shackles and the crack of the whip. Even taking his account at face value, which one would be foolish to do, forced labor by his definition consists of poverty alleviating schemes where ethnic minorities are privileged for work over the Han majority; welfarism is discouraged, and vocational training is provided to those who need it.
Of course, there is a smattering of accounts where members of work schemes said they were underpaid. However, considering Zenz‘ claims that half a million ethnic minorities are engaged in forced labor which “may” be considered enslavement seems somewhat ridiculous.
First, slaves don’t get paid, and second, considering the numbers Zenz brings up, only having a smattering of employees (now defined as slaves) being unhappy with their salary seems normal in any institution. The truth is that claims of slavery only stand up if the collective consumers of this news suspend belief and accept the gaslighting where slavery is anything power redefines it as. To the logical, this sounds incredulous but in the context of the US “pronoun war” US and Western citizens are increasingly being conditioned to accept reality redefinition.
Casting more doubt on Zenz‘ slavery narrative is the fact that China‘s development is increasingly high-tech. Xinjiang agriculture reports in 2019 detail that nearly 70 percent of cotton was machine picked which contrasts with Zenz‘ claim that 70 percent is picked by hand.
The fact is Xinjiang is open to the world and Zenz as well as the US administration that is enforcing UFLPA would do well to visit the Xinjiang, as I have done, and witness its amazing development and poverty alleviation which contrasts sharply with the destructive US policies in neighboring Afghanistan.
Tragically, the powers that be would like to turn Xinjiang into another pile of rubble and turn their humanitarian crime of the century into a trilogy.
For the US increasingly lost in madness, redefining basic nouns at a whim, it will have to live with the dishonor reserved for the mad and the bad.
Keith Lamb is a University of Oxford graduate with a Master of Science in Contemporary Chinese Studies. His primary research interests are China‘s international relations and “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”