The Chinese fast fashion brand SHEIN is again attracting unwanted attention – this time in the form of the ‘Shut Down Shein’ campaign, which was announced by multiple news sites on March 27.
The website for the campaign describes SHEIN as a “drug” that “threatens America’s children”. The site lists multiple allegations against the company, claiming that it uses Xinjiang cotton harvested from the forced labour of Uighurs, has anti-competitive business practices, and harvests data on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party.
“TikTok and SHEIN, controlled by the CCP, are trying to capture an entire generation of American youth. And in a way, they already have”, reads one section of the website introducing the campaign.
The campaign draws a comparison between SHEIN and Amazon, casting SHEIN as a retail behemoth that will monopolise the entire industry if left unchecked. SHEIN reportedly evades import tariffs using loopholes, which the website calls “an epic scam on US taxpayers”. By classifying ordinary customers as “importers” in their company policy, SHEIN flies under the US customs radar since only orders exceeding $800 are flagged for further inspection.
A SHEIN spokesperson responded, “Shein proudly provides customers with on-demand and affordable fashion, beauty and lifestyle products, lawfully and with full respect for the communities where we operate. We categorically deny these false and baseless claims, and will not hesitate to take swift action to protect the rights of our company.”
Whilst it is likely true that SHEIN’s use of import loopholes are technically legal, this may not strongly detract from the campaign’s wider message, which draws on fears over China’s global influence and technological prowess to present SHEIN as a national security threat to the US. These fears have grown to a fever pitch recently, with the US congress grilling TikTok CEO Shouzi Chew on the app’s connection to the Chinese government on March 23.
The ‘Shut Down Shein’ website refers to a “coalition of like-minded individuals” who created the campaign, but no further information is provided on the individuals, organisations, or businesses involved. The campaign has a twitter account that was created in March 2023 with no posts as of March 28.