Chinese netizens have been provoked by some brands including H&M and Nike for claiming "forced labor" during cotton-picking in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. In fact, mechanical cotton harvesting has long been popularized in Xinjiang.
The mechanical harvesting rate of cotton in Xinjiang reached 69.83 percent in 2020, and 95 percent of cotton in northern Xinjiang was picked by machinery, according to statistics released by the local agriculture department. Therefore, the claim that 70 percent of Xinjiang cotton is picked manually goes against the facts.
High mechanization of cotton picking in Xinjiang does not need a large number of pickers, even in the busy harvesting season, said Xu Guixaing, a local official. Manually cotton picking was abandoned a long time ago due to high cost and low-efficiency.
In the nearly 50-day cotton harvesting season, cotton pickers can earn tens of thousands of yuan (about $1,530 dollars) on average.
Besides, the number Han cotton pickers in recent years decreased mainly because of the increasing income of rural labor forces in mainland China. Therefore, the number of cotton pickers migrating to Xinjiang is decreasing, and has nothing to do with so-called "forced labor".
As the largest cotton consumer in the world, China has always had a great demand for Xinjiang cotton. With top-notch quality, Xinjiang cotton is always in short supply across the country.