How Beijing Forces Uyghurs to Pick Cotton

In a new Foreign Policy op-ed, VOC’s Dr. Adrian Zenz argues that China’s use of coercive labor is getting less visible, but more intense.

As Dr. Zenz writes, “Beijing has repeatedly claimed that there is ‘no forced labor’ in Xinjiang. But now, as the European Union debates a ban on products made with forced labor, the evidence has just gotten stronger.

My new research on Xinjiang’s cotton production—the first such research published in a peer-reviewed academic journal—shows that coercive labor transfers for seasonal agricultural work such as cotton picking have continued through at least 2022 and remain part of Xinjiang’s official Five-Year Plan for 2021-25. Economic incentives for this practice persist despite partial mechanization: State media reports from 2022 confirm that the premium-grade long staple cotton grown in southern Xinjiang still cannot be harvested by machines.

Read the full op-ed, in Foreign Policy, here.