A recent item in the shooting industry publication, Gun Trade News, featured an announcement by UK shooting business, The Shooting Party, where it welcomed what it claimed to be the “largest single import shipment of pellets into the UK”. The shipment, comprising 6.5 million airgun pellets arrived at The Shooting Party’s base near Lichfield, courtesy of Chinese supplier, Qiang Yuan Sports Goods. Many shooting businesses source components or finished product from China and in doing so they are simply following the pattern set by UK industry as a whole. However, there is a growing body of opinion that argues for a reduction in the trade between ourselves and China; an argument based on both moral and business grounds.
Those moral grounds are clear and unambiguous. Whilst many countries in the developing world and beyond have a less than spotless human rights record, China’s is not only the most appalling, but is getting worse. Whilst attempting to shut down international debate on its abuses by bribing complicit governments – its latest ploy has been to buy its way onto the UN Human Rights Council where quite farcically it will sit alongside those other champions of individual rights, Russia and Saudi Arabia – it has not been able to stifle the horror at its treatment of the Uyghur people, a million of whom are held in forced labour camps, there being subject to a regime of torture and execution. As we saw with the debate over Huawei’s access to 5G, Chinese companies become very vocal in disavowing the claim that they are under indirect government control and yet curiously silent when invited to express an opinion on the subject of their government’s human rights record.
Whilst businesses here turn a blind eye to what is going on, they might well consider what is currently happening in Australia. Having become the first nation to ban Huawei from its 5G networks, Australia was already on Beijing’s hitlist. But undaunted by threats the Aussies, irritated by the daily cyber-attacks on its infrastructure and state sponsored theft of intellectual property among much else, then lobbied the World Health Organisation* for a proper investigation into the source of the Covid epidemic.
The result is that China has imposed a more or less total trade embargo on the country. It remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be on a country as rich in natural resources as Australia, but no such consideration applies to the UK. Our dependence on China in terms of manufacturing is more or less total, which is why some commentators argue that businesses should balance the cost benefit they receive now against the much bigger cost disbenefit that always follows with total reliance on a single source of supply. A tall order perhaps for businesses where even modest increases in cost to the end user can be seriously harmful to sales.
It may be that Qiang Yuan Sports Goods is a model of probity when it comes to its attitudes toward its fellow countrymen and that its owners are as appalled as the rest of us at the acts carried out by their government. We cannot know and perhaps one of the reasons that we cannot is hinted at on the Qiang’s website where it tells us rather ominously that it has been “approved by the ministry for public security”.
*As the price of being allowed into the country to investigate, The WHO secretly made concessions to the Chinese government about the scope and nature of its investigations into source of epidemic.