Interesting, and a tad ironic. Keep in mind, this is the conservative Telegraph, which may explain all the anti-China quotes.
British Army combat uniforms are to be made in China in a cash-saving exercise forced on the military by the latest round of defence cuts.
The Ministry of Defence has admitted that all combat clothes worn by soldiers will be made in Chinese factories, despite claims by human rights pressure groups that working conditions in them are appalling.
A five-year £50 million contract to supply two million items of combat gear a year has been awarded to a Northern Ireland-based company, Cooneen Watts and Stone, which will sub-contract the work to China.
No MoD officials have visited the factories which will make the uniforms to check on working conditions and practices, even though China is the subject of an European Union arms embargo because of its poor human rights record.
Lindsay Hoyle, the Labour MP for Chorley, Lancashire, who raised the issue in the House of Commons, said last week: “We don’t know whether British uniforms will be manufactured using child labour in sweat shops in terrible conditions.
“It seems a bit hypocritical to me that Britain will not supply weapons to China because of its human rights record but the Government is asking it, a communist country, to supply our Armed Forces with uniforms. It is absurd.”
A spokesman for Amnesty International said: “Poor conditions for Chinese workers are widespread, with low wages, mass lay-offs and corrupt management practices. Those attempting to form trade unions have been met by the authorities with intimidation, arrests and long prison sentences….”
There was no one available to comment from Coneen Watts and Stone, the company which was awarded the contract. A senior military officer said: “This is laughable. Apart from China’s appalling human rights record, it is also potentially the Western world’s most powerful enemy and we are paying them £50 million to make our uniforms.”
I think the officer is being somewhat outspoken, and I have mixed feelings on the topic myself. I want China to get the work and the money. If, however, it goes to encourage sweatshop conditions and child exploitation, I’ll be less enthusiastic. Right now we don’t know, and it sounds like some critics are jumping to the most extreme conclusions, with no meaningful evidence.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.