China likes blurring: Brands like Adidas, Nike and H&M blurred on Chinese TV to support Xinjiang’s ‘Uyghur forced labour’ in cotton production

In a bid to support the controversial way of cotton production in Xinjiang province, Chinese TV channels have started blurring out logos of Western brands in their programmes.

It often comes in our conversations and even more often in TV news channel debates about where really China is heading – towards emerging as a great global force via Chinese Nationalism. We witness small clues of what such nationalism looks like on social media, mostly when China comes in defence regarding issues and claims surrounding their region. But this time, China is showcasing some unintentionally funny nationalism support expressed over the alleged use of minority Uyghur forced labour in cotton production.

Western retailers are facing a backlash in China since the time they have accused China of committing serious human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang autonomous region. Brands like Adidas, Nike, and H&M are facing massive backlash in the country and now Chinese TV stations have found a new way to show their support towards the controversial way of cotton production in Xinjiang.

Workers at a cotton factory in China’s Xinjiang region.

In a bid to support their country, Chinese TV channels have started blurring out logos of Western brands in their programmes. Broadcasters in China reportedly are scrubbing Western clothing brands’ logos (Adidas, Nike, and other companies) from their shows. The television channels are blurring the shoes and tees of the actors and singers featuring in the shows making them look like they are floating on the clouds. This move of TV channels and shows to show support to their government over the boycott of Western brands has resulted in a lot of unintentional hilarity on social media platforms. 

Xinjiang cotton campaign:

In order to understand this whole blurring effect on Chinese Television, it is important to gain knowledge about how it all started. The Xinjiang cotton campaign was started soon after the US and other Western countries started putting pressure on the Chinese government to stop alleged human rights violations on Uyghur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region. With all these claims, some multinational retail giants like H&M and Nike released statements expressing concerns over the forced labour reports in the Xinjiang province.

In regards to the statements given by these retail giants and sanctions imposed by the Western countries; Western clothing brands started witnessing online outrage from Chinese users. H&M was the first brand to face the backlash and now brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma have also joined it.

According to various reports, these brands are also members of the Better Cotton Initiative, a non-profit group promoting sustainable cotton production, and therefore are outspoken about the use of forced Uyghur labour in cotton production in China. Apart from television channels showing support, there is a massive outrage online and also many celebrities in China have publicly expressed their support by cutting ties with Western brands.

Brands blurred on Chinese TV:

The initiative of TV channels blurring out Western brands’ logos gained attention when in the episodes of the popular TV show ‘Sisters Who Make Waves’, people noticed the blurred-out footwears of actors and singers. Another singing competition show ‘Youth With You’ also gained a lot of attention as the viewers had to watch the blurred contestants performing as they were wearing Adidas from head to toe.  

Blurred shoes of contestants on the show, ‘Sisters Who Make Waves’
Blurred shoes of contestants on a show

This is not the first time that Chinese TV is blurring out things to minimise the Western impact on Chinese pop culture. In 2018, the Chinese TV channels banned featuring actors with tattoos. While in 2019, an actor’s ears were blurred to hide the earrings he was wearing in his reality show called ‘I, Actor’.

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