Harvard’s William Overholt on Esquel, cotton sanctions, and forced Uyghur labor


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This week on Sinica, Kaiser chats with William (Bill) Overholt, senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a veteran China-watcher whose career has run the gamut from investment banking to academia to the leading think tanks. Bill recently weighed in on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to place Esquel, a leading textile manufacturer headquartered in Hong Kong, on its entity list of companies alleged to be using forced labor from Xinjiang, lamenting that “it’s quite possible that the U.S. government has imposed sanctions on the world’s most socially responsible company and one that has been particularly beneficial to the Uyghurs.” Bill also discusses recent essays on other problems in American China policy.

7:17: First impressions of Esquel, its technology, and its working conditions for Uyghurs

21:47: Targeted sanctions vs. blanket sanctions

35:06: Lack of China expertise in the highest ranks of the Biden administration’s foreign policy team

44:43: Why the United States should return to an economic strategy

A transcript of this episode is available on SupChina.com.


Bill: Newsletters and podcasts from SupChina; articles from The Wire China; and the article “The Chinese Debt Trap is a Myth” published in The Atlantic, by Deborah Brautigam and Meg Rithmire.

Kaiser: The novel The Lions of al-Rassan, by Guy Gavriel Kay.