At first, it seemed that the next US sanctions idea would only motivate the victim of sanctions, China, to understand the situation and again catch the Americans in a shameful lie. And this happened predictably, but the conversation went further: about how to use what is happening to modernize another branch of the Chinese economy. Cotton.
It is about the “Act on the Prevention of Uyghur Forced Labor” in Xinjiang, China, recently signed by President Joe Biden. And since the discussion of the act had been going on for a long time, several groups of Chinese researchers worked quietly for months, including in the region itself, and sorted out what actually happens to cotton and “forced labor.”
And here is one such document – it was prepared by specialists from Jinan University in Guangzhou. Among other things, it says that the annual cotton harvest, which cannot be done without help from the entire district, is based on contracts signed with each picker. Those (under the control of the authorities) are strictly enforced and serve as a traditional and expected source of income in rural areas. But an additional part of the story is that manual harvesting in Xinjiang generally goes into the exotic category, all stages of working with cotton are increasingly mechanized, which, if desired, can be seen even from America – the companion of cotton harvesters is perfectly distinguished.
How do you come up with reasons for sanctions against a particular country, including Russia ? This is done by dissidents, who have mostly moved safely to the United States or Europe, people who need to somehow justify their existence. In the case of Xinjiang, they are most often associated with the jihadist Uyghur underground that terrorized all of China in past eras. At the same time, such people make an explicit expectation that their audience and customers are severely illiterate and will not figure out how everything really is.
“Forced” labor in picking cotton is the case. Anyone who lived in Soviet Central Asia will never forget the mass exodus “for cotton” (in central Russia, everyone was voluntarily and forcibly sent “for potatoes”). And many humanitarians in Tashkent might have wondered whether I defended my dissertation on the poetics of Alisher Navoi, so that every year I would go through the rows of cotton with my head wrapped in a rag from the wild heat.
Is it forced labor? But what about the fact that in cotton regions this massive harvest is a way of life that has developed for centuries, and it is simply unthinkable to avoid it? If some European or Californian does not understand this, then there is an analogue: grape harvest. When once a year everyone leaves everything and moves to the vineyards, students and guest workers from afar are drawn there. Is it forced labor or some other kind? Mechanized harvesting is simply impossible here, then there will be no decent wine, and, by the way, the cotton harvested by the combine is not at all of the same quality, you cannot make good fabric from it.
The demonstratively idiotic justification for the next US sanctions can be responded to in different ways. For example, an official representative of the Xinjiang government suddenly reminded the Americans of their past – the import of blacks on cotton, imagine, plantations, accurately quoting the figures stolen from Africa from 1619 or between 1783 and 1808, when the slave trade was suddenly banned. But the same researchers from Jinan University approached the matter differently: they looked at the entire chain of the world cotton trade.
Their conclusion: the supply of textiles to the United States is in great trouble (the importer now has to prove to customs that the raw materials are not from Xinjiang). But that is the United States, where the price of textiles will now rise sharply. But what about China itself – why would it be at the very bottom of the supply chain, mainly supplying raw materials? And if now the prices for the final product grow up all over the world, then there is something to think about. Moreover, besides the West, there are many other countries. And thanks to the long-standing and boring accusations that Xinjiang is hell on earth, now this very Xinjiang has been visited by many delegations of any level from all over the world.
Everyone now knows that Xinjiang has an incentive to invest in its cotton industry.
There were some rather unexpected consequences of this story. For example, all the hordes of Sinologists are now very interested in the further biography of Chen Quanguo, the current head of Xinjiang. He is transferred to Beijing- and for what position? This post can be very, very high. And how could it be otherwise – not so long ago Xinjiang was not just a distant outskirts of China, but an outskirts with big problems. The Uyghur community of Xinjiang was deeply infected with terrorist ideology, the ties of local jihadists with foreign like-minded people seemed inseparable, terror was exported all the way to Beijing and beyond. And this is not to mention poverty as a cause and a natural consequence of such a situation. And now Xinjiang has turned into another economic miracle, comparable to analogs such as the southern, coastal provinces. Of course, Chen was not the only one who did this – all of China worked for Xinjiang, but the person’s experience is very good.
In fact, America with like-minded people has clearly played out on the part of demonizing this Chinese province. Making her a global symbol of horror is the failed idea of the Donald Trump administration. Then they began to boycott any Western business operating in Xinjiang, not just cotton, and continue to do so. Because slave labor, concentration camps and the oppression of the Uighurs are supposedly everywhere in Xinjiang. Result: the whole world became interested in what kind of territory this is, Xinjiang, if any high-tech industries worked or are working there, and what is good in terms of entertainment, in the shadow of Urumqi skyscrapersand old quarters of Kashgar. And now very many people know that this is, firstly, an amazing tourist destination, and secondly, another point of global economic growth. Not to mention that this is one of the few world examples of a successful solution to the problem of jihadist terror.
And the last thing: Xinjiang is almost our neighbor, it is a natural continuation of the familiar Central Asia, in terms of climatic and other parts. The opportunities that open up there are our opportunities too.