CATL (aka Contemporary Amperex Technology or Ningde Times New Energy Technology) is the world’s most significant manufacturer of batteries and produces the world’s cheapest lithium-ion batteries. According to Bloomberg, about 35% of the world’s EV batteries are made by CATL. The company supplies the leaders in the electric vehicle industry. CATL is headquartered in Ningde, and benefits from enormous government subsidies, equivalent to a fifth of its net income in 2020, all for a company that has a market cap of almost US $240 billion. Until recently, it has had little corporate footprint in the Uyghur Region aside from a joint venture with the XUAR State Grid Energy Service Group that focuses on grid-level energy storage systems (unclear whether this project has any international exports). In 2022, however, CATL began expanding in the Uyghur Region.
In February 2022, CATL and Jiangxi Zhicun Lithium Industry Co. jointly registered Xinjiang Zhicun Lithium Industry Co., a lithium processing company in Chaqiliq (Ch: Ruoqiang) County, Bayingholen. Corporate advertisements indicate that the company expects to become the largest lithium carbonate producer in the world with the development of a 120,000-ton lithium carbonate project.
Talent recruitment advertisements for the company, posted in Fujian Province, suggest that the company seeks high-skilled workers from other provinces. Because the company only started construction in the last several months, it is impossible to know whether it is employing state-sponsored labor transfers. However, state-sponsored labor programs are already in place for other companies in need of workers in Chaqiliq County. The county government collects workers from Hotan, where “there is a large number of surplus laborers that need to be transferred and employed.” The lithium carbonate facility is being built adjacent to a TBEA facility currently under expansion, which reportedly includes battery manufacturing. TBEA participation in labor transfer schemes has been well documented.
Chaqiliq County seems to be establishing itself as a hub for new energy, centered in large part around the development of these new enterprises. The government sees this as a way to develop the region’s economy while redoubling its commitment to “highlight the employment of the surplus urban and rural labor force,” which is one of the euphemisms the government uses for coercive labor transfer programs.
Products made or mined in the Uyghur Region are prohibited from import into the United States. This suggests that lithium-ion batteries sourced from CATL could be under greater scrutiny now that the new Xinjiang project is underway.
Shandong Nanshan announced this new subsidiary in 2022 that would be dedicated to automotive battery manufacturing; exposure linked to any Nanshan Aluminum sourcing from Xinjiang subsidiary
CATL supplies lithium-ion batteries to Tesla, through a contract that runs from January 2022 to December 2025, following the completion of their two-year contract that ended in June 2022.