XUAR and the Auto Industry


Chinese auto parts manufacturers play an even larger role in the sector than would be evident at first glance. Many of the top global car manufacturers are indebted to mining, refining, or manufacturing undertaken in the PRC. China processes most of the world’s iron into steel, bauxite into aluminum, and lithium and cobalt into battery-grade materials.[1]

The PRC conducts a lot of that environmentally damaging and energy-consuming work in the extraordinarily repressive environment of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (or XUAR or Uyghur Region). 

The automotive industry relies on dozens of raw materials in the production of vehicles.[2] About 60% of the typical passenger vehicle is made of iron and steel, and about 12% aluminum.[3]  Both steel and aluminum are used in the construction of the car’s frame as well as in the manufacture of many other essential parts. Aluminum and magnesium alloys are increasingly replacing steel in some parts manufacturing because of their comparable lightness, which improves fuel efficiency.[4] Batteries for traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles require lead, and electric vehicle (EV) batteries require lithium, graphite, and other elements. Copper and nickel are used in electromechanical aspects of the car to increase conductivity and reduce wear.[5]

The materials used in the manufacturing of automotive vehicles tend to be mined and processed in some of the most remote places in the world, often under horrific labor and environmental conditions. Indeed, a 2022 industry report on the Chinese auto parts industry indicates that the XUAR is ranked third in China for production of these non-ferrous metals that are essential to automotive manufacturing.[6] This is only in small part due to the raw materials resources of the region. To a much greater extent, it is because of the incentives the government has provided to move processing of those materials closer to coal reserves and laxer regulatory contexts. Xinjiang’s industrial sector is characterized by coal-based energy used in the processing, hazardous working conditions, and diminished rights of workers.[7]

While the Uyghur Region is not necessarily rich in all of the raw materials central to automotive manufacturing, the PRC government has dedicated significant resources to moving the processing of these raw materials into the Uyghur Region. In both the 13th and 14th Five-Year Plans (spanning the years 2016-2026), the XUAR and XPCC governments emphasized the importance of expanding the region’s processing of the materials most critical to the auto industry, namely iron, steel, and non-ferrous metals. The automotive sector is explicitly highlighted as a target industry for these endeavors.[8] The central and regional governments have provided extraordinary incentives for companies to move their raw materials processing out to the Uyghur Region, where labor and environmental standards are enforced less stringently. Expansion of mining, processing, investment, and exports in the region are all of concern to automotive companies.

The first several chapters of the report zoom in on three materials that are central to car part and whole car manufacturing – steel, aluminum, and copper – to represent the critical role the Uyghur Region plays in the production of our cars. In the process, we uncover the extraordinary rights violations that are being inflicted on Indigenous Uyghur, Kazakh, and other minoritized people of the region by the companies that are among the most significant miners and processors of those essential raw materials. Examined together, it becomes clear that a vast array of forced-labor-tainted materials from the Uyghur Region are making their way into cars and other vehicles around the world, including in the U.S., where such imports are now banned.



To take advantage of the consolidation and expansion of key materials processing in the XUAR, central, regional, and local government agencies have invested significant resources in developing the automotive manufacturing in the last decade. In 2014, the Economic and Information Commission of the XUAR announced that the Uyghur Region would “build Xinjiang into an important automobile manufacturing and westward export base” that would take advantage of the region’s location as a transportation hub and its “advanced logistics.” The government kicked off this initiative with the 2014 “Auto Parts and Agricultural Machinery Industry Matchmaking Conference,” which was hosted to share incentives and develop partnerships with automotive companies.[9] The “Made in China 2025 Xinjiang Action Plan” disseminated in 2015 repeatedly mentions the government’s very specific ambitions to expand the automotive industry in the region and to make XUAR-based automotive parts brands into national and internationally recognized brands.[10]

Local and regional governments of the Uyghur Region have worked to create a business-friendly environment to make the remote region more attractive for business and manufacturing. Region-wide incentives such as free rent, subsidized utilities, employee training subsidies, and coercive labor transfers of disciplined Indigenous workers have characterized the constellation of programs offered to Chinese companies to encourage (perhaps even compel) them to move their manufacturing to the Uyghur Region.[11] In March of 2022, the capitol city of Ürümchi announced 87 measures to further “optimize the business environment” in the city, which included “protecting the legitimate rights and interests of enterprises,” “preventing excessive interference,” making the licensing and approval processes speedier, creating differentiated regulatory environments based on corporate social credit scores, reducing the customs documents necessary for import and export, providing 1% interest financing to companies, and generally reducing restrictions on corporate development in the region.[12] It is clear that the expansion of manufacturing in the Uyghur Region continues apace, despite setbacks due to domestic economic challenges, human rights crises, and COVID.

In the second half of this report, we discuss the exceedingly high risk of Uyghur forced labor involved in the manufacture of car parts. One chapter examines both ICE and EV batteries. In another chapter, we analyze the way in which automotive electronics that are sourced from other regions of China are also exposed to forced labor of workers from the Uyghur Region, as electronics manufacturers have been actively engaged in cross-regional state-sponsored forced labor transfers. Finally, we discuss interiors and tires that are made by people subjected to state-sponsored labor transfers in the Uyghur Region. Online Annex A includes a comprehensive list of all auto parts manufacturers we identified operating in the Uyghur Region, even if there is only scant information about them online, as it may be useful for corporate supply chain tracing. 

In sum, our findings suggest that practically all parts of the car are exposed to Uyghur forced labor in one way or another.


Auto parts manufacturing is now underway in Hotan,[13] Korla,[14] Manas County,[15] Khorghos,[16] and Ürümchi.[17] The automotive part manufacturing industry will continue to expand in the Uyghur Region, as increased subsidies and new facility development project announcements attest.

In February of 2022, a CNY 260 million auto parts manufacturing project with an annual sales projection of CNY 1.6 trillion, was proposed for the Sanji (Ch: Changji) region in the Zhundong Development Zone,[18] 160 kilometers outside of Ürümchi, where the project would take advantage of the proximity of aluminum, scrap steel, and molten iron (and almost certainly the low-cost coal that the region is famous for).

In May of 2022, the Administrative Committee of the Ürümchi government released a new directive on accelerating the further promotion of and increasing investment in the automotive sector in the Toutunhe Economic and Technological Development Zone, where much of the region’s car manufacturing takes place (see section on Toutunhe in this chapter). For companies that moved into the Zone and promised to remain for ten years, the district government committed to provide up to CNY 5 million in fixed assets subsidies, free rent on manufacturing workshops for three years and 50% market rate for two years thereafter, and special preferential procurement deals with government agencies. Furthermore, the government developed a special auto industry development sub-fund to “support investment promotion, traditional technological transformation, major technological breakthroughs, industrial platform construction, supporting system and corporate brand building, and new product development.” Executives of companies that develop in the Toutunhe Zone qualified for talent rewards and subsidies as well.[19]

In the spring of 2022, government representatives from the border adjacent Khorghos region of the XUAR traveled to several cities across China to develop relationships with enterprises to encourage investment through promoting the significant subsidies and incentives programs in place to attract business to the region. On that trip, a representative of Shaanxi Automobile Holding Group celebrated the company’s use of Khorghos as an export hub and indicated that the company is interested in engaging in an auto parts assembly project there in the future.[20] Facilitation of exports is a critical aspect of ensuring the success of automotive part manufacturing in the remote Uyghur Region, and efforts have begun to provide companies assurances that the XUAR will be a conducive place to do business on that front as well.


China’s domestic automobile consumption is steadily increasing – both for traditional and electric vehicles – and, thus, it is certain that some of the expansion of the auto parts industry in the XUAR is meant to support that growth. EV vehicle purchases are predicted to account for 20% of car purchases in the Uyghur Region by 2025, and the regional government is mandated to make 50% of their vehicle purchases be EVs.[21] This will certainly create significant demand for the automotive parts manufactured in the region.

However, the parts manufactured in the Uyghur Region are also being exported internationally, exposing the entire global automotive market to Uyghur forced labor. In 2022, car parts are one of China’s top exports passing through the Uyghur Region’s land borders by train into Central Asia and on to Europe and Russia.[22] These import/export corridors enable raw materials to enter for processing, processed materials to exit for fabrication, and fabricated materials to be exported to Europe, with connections to the Uyghur Region obscured in the process.

According to U.N. Comtrade data, in 2021, more than US $30 billion worth of auto parts were shipped from China to the United States ($11.5b), Japan ($3.6b), Mexico ($2.9b), Germany ($2.4b), South Korea ($2b), Thailand ($1.6b), Russia ($1.4b), Canada ($1.2b), India ($1b), the United Kingdom ($1b), and other countries. Given the deliberate investment the PRC has made in moving a significant part of the automotive industry to the Uyghur Region, this suggests that there is extraordinarily high risk of XUAR-made products being exported to automotive manufacturers worldwide. The following chapters provide insight into the significant exposure of the industry to products made in the Uyghur Region. It is critical that the automotive industry begin to reckon with the extent to which the industry is at legal, financial, and reputational risk, as the industries most central to the sector continue to expand in the Uyghur Region, at the same time as the PRC’s systematic program of forced labor expands.

[1] The White House, “Building resilient supply chains, revitalizing American manufacturing, and fostering broad-based growth: 100-Day reviews under Executive Order 14017,” June 2021, Online, p. 7. For steel and aluminum processing see, respectively: World Steel Association, “World steel in figures: 2022,” April 2022, Online. Also: “Statistics,” International Aluminum Institute, Online.

[2] Drive Sustainability, the Responsible Minerals Initiative and the Dragonfly Institute, “Material change: A study of risks and opportunities for collective action in the materials supply chains of the automotive and electronics industries,” July 2018, Online.

[3] Abey Abraham, Richard Schultz, Bertrand Rakoto, James Murphy, Leonard Ling, Matt Merta, and Joseph Dudley, “2020 North America light vehicle aluminum content and outlook: Final report summary,” Ducker Frontier, July 2020, Online, p. 14.

[4] Mekonnen Asmare Fentahun and Mahmut Ashen Savaş, “Materials used in automotive manufacture and material selections using Ashby charts,” International Journal of Materials Engineering, 8(3), 2018, Online, p. 40-54.

[5] Drive Sustainability, the Responsible Minerals Initiative and the Dragonfly Institute, “Material change: A study of risks and opportunities for collective action in the materials supply chains of the automotive and electronics industries,” July 2018, Online.

[6] China Business Industry Research Institute, “2022年中国汽车零部件产业链全景图上中下游市场及企业分析” [2022 China auto parts industry chain panorama upstream, midstream and downstream markets and enterprise analysis], Dongchedi, June 28, 2022, Online.

[7] For weak environmental enforcement see: Yingming Zhu, Nian Wang and Ronghui Xie, “Exploring the role of heterogeneous environmental regulations in industrial agglomeration: A fresh evidence from China,” Sustainability, 14, August 31, 2022, Online, p. 1-17. For weak labor law enforcement when the Chinese state favors businesses see: Raymond Fisman and Yongxiang Wang, “The mortality cost of political connections,” The Review of Economic Studies, 82(4), October 2015, Online, p. 1346-1382. 

[8] “新疆维吾尔自治区国民经济和社会发展 第十三个五年规划纲要” [Outline of the 13th Five-Year Plan for the national economic and social development of the XUAR] National Development and Reform Commission, May 2016, Online, p. 48-49; “新疆生产建设兵团国民经济和社会发展第十四个五年规划和2035年远景目标纲要” [Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps national economic and social development 14th Five-Year Plan and 2035 vision outline] National Development and Reform Commission,  March 31, 2021, Online, p. 41, 42.

[9] Jin Wei, “新疆打造西北汽车制造出口基地” Xinjiang builds northwest automotive manufacturing and export base], China Business Times, November 18, 2014, Online.

[10] “关于印发中国制造2025新疆行动方案的通知” [Notice on publication of the Made in China 2025 Xinjiang action plan] State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China, June 2, 2016, Online.

[11] See, for example, Ministry of Finance State Tax Administration, “关于新疆困难地区新办企业所得税优惠政策的通知” (“Notice regarding preferential income tax policies for newly established enterprises in hardship areas in Xinjiang”), No. 53, June 24, 2011, Online; People’s Government of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, “新疆维吾尔自治区人民政府关于促进我区出口生产企业发展的税收政策的通知” (“Notice of the People’s Government of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the tax policy for promoting the development of export production enterprises in our region”), No. 117, November 10, 2010, Online; “兵团石河子国家高新区技术产业开发区 关于鼓励创新创业发展的若干规定” (“Several provisions on encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship development in the Technology Industry Development Zone of the Shihezi National High-tech Zone of the Corps”), EmTown, June 19, 2018, Online; Turpan Municipal Bureau of Human Resources and Social Security, “吐鲁番市职业技能提升行动实施方案(2019-2021年)” [Turpan city vocational skills upgrading action implementation plan (2019-2021)], Turpan Executive Office (2019) No. 53, September 17, 2020, Online; “减税降费助力新疆脱贫攻坚” [Tax cuts and fee reductions to help Xinjiang fight poverty), Xinjiang Autonomous Region Tax Service, State Taxation Administration, 2020, Online; “新疆:让扶贫举措更细 让脱贫效果更实” [Xinjiang: Making poverty alleviation measures more detailed, making poverty alleviation more effective), 2019, Online; “和田纺织服装产业投资政策” [Hotan textile and apparel industry investment policy], Hotan District Investment Promotion Bureau, May 23, 2017, Online; “新疆:重点支持南疆纺织服装产业发展” [Xinjiang: Focus on supporting the development of textile and garment industry in southern Xinjiang], China Business News Network, April 17, 2018, Online; Wang Yuzhao, “新疆”千企帮千村”惠及26万余名贫困农牧民” [Xinjiang’s ‘Thousands of Enterprises Helping Thousands of Villages’ benefited more than 260,000 poor farmers and herdsmen], Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, August, 19, 2020, Online.

[12] “刚刚!乌鲁木齐公布2022年优化营商环境87项措施!” [Breaking! Ürümchi announces 87 measures to optimize the business environment in 2022!], Ürümchi Housing Market via NetEase, March 6, 2022, Online; “乌鲁木齐:2022年 87项优化营商环境措施刚刚公布,年内全部落地见效!” [Ürümchi: 87 measures to optimize the business environment in 2022 have just been announced, and all of them will be effective within the year!], Tencent.com, March 2022, Online.

[13] See section on Guanghui Group in the Interiors, Tires, and Other Parts chapter of this report.

[14] Citic Dicastal and Wikiway both reportedly considered operating in Korla as a result of a 2019 Counterpart Support Cooperation Agreement with Qinhuangdao Economic and Technological Development Zone (Hebei), per state media announcements. It is unclear whether the companies subsequently expanded into the Uyghur Region. See Liang Shuang, “新疆巴州考察团到开发区考察” [Xinjiang Bazhou delegation visits the development zone], Qinhuangdao Economic and Technological Development Zone (QETDZ) Management Committee website, April 24, 2019, Online; Wu Wenchao, “库尔勒经济技术开发区与秦皇岛经开区签订对口支援合作协议” [Korla Economic and Technological Development Zone signs counterpart support cooperation agreement with Qinhuangdao Economic Development Zone], Silk Road Loulan Network via Sohu News, April 21, 2019, Online.

[15] Zhao Shanbin, “玛纳斯县举行千万只锻造铝轮毂及新能源项目签约仪式” [Manas County held ‘ten million forged aluminum wheels and new energy project’ signing ceremony], Tianshan Net News, August 12, 2022, Online. The footprint is adjacent to the Jiarun Aluminum Smelter, covered in the aluminum chapter in this report, and operated by Ningbo Hengyang Machinery Co., Ltd (宁波经济技术开发区恒阳机械有限公司). It was referred to as the “3366 Development Direction,” in Government of Xinjiang. “Economic Development Zone (Toutunhe District) entity industrial park investment manual” [经开区(头屯河区)实体产业园招商手册], September 2021, Online, p. 1-2.

[16] “携手共建和平繁荣开放创新文明之路”[Join hands to build a peaceful, prosperous, open, innovative and civilized road], Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region People’s Government via Sina News, May 16, 2017, Online. Khorghos Che Mach Aluminum Casting (also called Cermak E-Automotive Tech (Khorghos)) established the “largest-scale lost foam automatic production line in China” in Khorghos and was “expected to supply the first batch of samples to France’s Peugeot Citroen Group, Germany’s BMW Group and Mercedes Benz Group” by end-of-January 2021. “【特讯】​博奥镁铝加速生产镁合金压铸部件​;森森集团启动上市辅导;国盛车马赫1月底为国际车企提供铝铸件样品”​ [[Special News] Boao Magnesium and Aluminum accelerates the production of magnesium alloy die casting parts​; Sensen Group starts listing guidance; Guosheng Che Mach provides aluminum casting samples for international car companies at the end of January], 001CNDC, January 21, 2021, Online. Other automotive sector operators in the Khorghos Qingshuihe Industrial Park (在清水河千亿级产业园区内), within the XPCC’s National Khorghos Industrial Development Zone (霍尔果斯经济开发区兵团分区) include: Khorghos Dongchuang Optoelectronics Technology Co.; Khorghos Guosheng Caral Metal Technology Co., Ltd.  (霍尔果斯雪人卡拉尔金属技术有限公司, a sister company of Che Mach, producing automobile chassis), Khorghos Anda New Energy Electric Vehicle  (霍尔果斯安达新能源电动车科技有限公司) ; Shandong Haike Vehicle Technology Co., Ltd. Khorghos (山东海科车业科技有限公司); and Khorghos Ferret New Energy Vehicle Co Ltd(霍尔果斯菲瑞特新能源汽车股份有限公司). See also: “‘两霍两伊’一体化战略实施一年——千亿级产业园区阔步走来” [ One-year implementation of the “2 Huo’s, 2 Yi’s” integration strategy – industrial parks of 100 billion level are striding forward], Tianshan Net- Xinjiang Daily, March 22, 2022,  Online; Chen Qiangwei, “新疆霍尔果斯20个项目同时开工 总投资24.62亿元全部为社会资本” [20 projects in Khorghos, Xinjiang, start at the same time, with a total investment of 2.462 billion yuan, all of which are social capital], China Daily, July 20, 2019, Online; “新能源电动汽车生产基地项目落户霍尔果斯” [New energy electric vehicle production base project settled in Khorghos], Tianshan via Sohu, March 24, 2017, Online.

[17] See Toutunhe section of this chapter.

[18] “汽车特种零部件项目” [Automobile special parts project], Xinjiang Merchants Network, Online.

[19] Office of the Administrative Committee of Ürümchi Economic and Technological Development Zone (Toutunhe District People’s Government), “关于加快推动乌鲁木齐经济技术开发区 (头屯河区)汽车产业链招商引资 工作的若干支持政策(试行)” [Several supporting policies on accelerating the promotion of investment promotion of the automobile industry chain of the Ürümchi Economic and Technological Development Zone (Toutunhe District) (for Trial Implementation)], May 9, 2022, Online.

[20] “霍尔果斯吹响招商引资冲锋号” [Khorghos sounds the charge of attracting investment], Tianshan, March 2, 2022, Online.

[21] “新疆塔城:到2025年,汽车新车销售总量的20%应为新能源汽车” [Xinjiang Tacheng: By 2025, 20% all new car sales should be new energy vehicles], Tram Resources, May 13, 2022, Online.

[22] “上半年中欧班列再创历史新高” [China-Europe freight train hits record high in first half of year], Xinhua via Taizhang, July 5, 2022, Online.