Could China get its own back on US over Huawei campaign tonight?

By Luke Christou

The United States has been keen to push an anti-Huawei rhetoric of late, but China could get its own back this evening as the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) prepares to air its annual consumer rights show.

Each year, China celebrates World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March as a means of raising awareness of consumer wants and needs, and fighting against unfair market practices. The CCTV broadcast, known as 315, serves as the grand finale. Millions of Chinese consumers tune in to watch what is essentially a public shaming of some of the world’s biggest brands.

“This is the one day of the year that all eyes are focused on the consumer issue,” James Feldkamp, CEO of China-based consumer research firm MingJian, told Reuters.

Last year the show targeted German automotive manufacturer Volkswagen over an engine defect in its Touareg SUV.

It is currently unclear which companies will be shamed today. Producers are kept in a hotel for months before it airs to ensure that no leaks occur. However, this year’s theme will be “quality consumption”, with the luxury market, particularly those that charge high prices without offering high quality, the likely target.

Consumer Rights Day: An opportunity to target US tech?

The United States has been at odds with China since early 2018, when the Trump administration set tariff increases on a number of China-made items as it felt that China was violating the rights of American companies by demanding they hand over intellectual property to buy their way into the Chinese market.

With the trade war still ongoing, the US has also taken aim at China’s telecommunication leader Huawei. The US has banned the use of Huawei components by government agencies over fears that the company is used by China to spy on foreign nations. It has also called for other countries to ban Huawei, with Australia, New Zealand and Japan having blocked the company from participating in the development of its next-generation 5G networks.

Huawei’s rotating chairman Ken Hu previously admitted that the pressure “makes it very difficult for Huawei to enjoy business growth”. However, for China, Consumer Rights Day could provide an opportunity to score some points.

The 315 show has previously targeted American companies such as sportswear manufacturer Nike, clothing retailer Guess and fast food chain McDonald’s. Likewise, Apple was criticised in 2013 for offering consumers fewer guarantees and warranties in their Chinese stores than elsewhere in the world. Apple CEO Tim Cook was forced to issue an apology letter to Chinese consumers as a result of the backlash.

The US tech company undoubtedly meets the criteria again this year, having faced criticism for increasing prices far faster than both inflation and other tech manufacturers while offering little upgrade in return.

Read more: Is Huawei too big to ban?


Topics in this article: