Axios Today Podcast: A Survey of Airbnb Rentals in China

Axios’ Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian discovered that Airbnb had more than a dozen homes available for rent in China’s Xinjiang region, on land owned by the U.S.-sanctioned Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. for complicity in the genocide and forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim minority population.

  • Plus, the new online “buy now, pay later” lure.
  • And, this Giving Tuesday, how the CEO and co-founder of CAVA perceives philanthropy.

Guests: Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Erica Pandey of Axios; and CAVA CEO Brett Shulman.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Alex Sugiura, Sabeena Singhani, David Toledo and Jayk Cherry. The music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can send questions, comments, and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice message to 202-918-4893.

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NILA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios today!

It’s Tuesday, November 30. I am Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the new lure buy now, pay later online. Plus, this Giving Tuesday, how a CEO views philanthropy.

But first, Today’s One Big Thing: An Axios Survey of AirBnb Rentals in China.

Airbnb is the latest company to walk a tightrope when it comes to doing business in China and US sanctions on human rights violations there. Axios discovered that Airbnb had more than a dozen homes available for rent in China’s Xinjiang region on land owned by the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, an organization sanctioned by the United States for its complicity in the genocide. and the forced labor of the Uyghur Muslim minority. population. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is the Axios China reporter behind this exclusive. Hello Bethany.


NIALA: I think we should start by explaining the sanctions that the US government is currently putting in place in western China. Can you tell us what is allowed and what is not?

BETHANIA: This particular sanction against the XPCC, that is, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, prohibits financial transactions related to this organization and prohibits transactions with any property or interest in the property of this organization. Thus, Airbnb has around 300 listings in Xinjiang. Of these, we found that 14 are on land owned by the XPCC.

NIALA: What did Airbnb tell you about all of this?

BETHANIA: Airbnb’s position is that these ads are good and do not violate US sanctions, as this sanction only applies to people they deal with directly, so that would be the host and none of the registered hosts on Airbnb is not the XPCC.

NIALA: And this XPCC, why were they sanctioned by the US government?

BETHANIA: Thus, the XPCC helps manage some mass internment camps where a million or more Ouighyrs are currently being held and have been held for several years. Uyghurs are forced to work in agricultural production and the XPCC is in the process of implementing it.

NIALA: Americans might be surprised to learn that in this Chinese region where there are also these forced labor camps, are there also tourists? As if there was a need for Airbnb?

BETHANIA: Oh, totally. Yes, so Xinjiang has long been quite a popular destination for Chinese tourists. It has these beautiful desert landscapes. It is also a kind of mishmash of different cultures, Uyghur culture, Kazakh Tajikistani, all these ethnic cultures with a Muslim majority. And so it is very popular among Chinese tourists to come and experience these kinds of different cultures.

What is happening, however, is that the Chinese government is actively promoting and stimulating tourism and Xinjiang almost looks like an apartheid state. Han Chinese tourists, so people who are members of the overwhelming majority ethnic group in China can travel in Xinjiang quite freely. They can go to tourist sites. They can book hotels. They can enjoy life there, but most Uyghurs cannot.

At least 10% of the population is currently held in mass internment camps. Among the people who are not, many of them are confined to their cities. They cannot leave their city without permission. Some of them are confined to their quarters. They’re under a state of surveillance and for Airbnb to operate there, you know, they participate, even passively, in an economy that deliberately excludes Uyghurs because of who they are.

NIALA: I feel like we can’t end without talking about the Winter Olympics, because there have been discussions about whether or not the United States would have a diplomatic boycott. I know that earlier this year a coalition of human rights organizations called on Airbnb to drop its sponsorship because of these violations. What was their reaction to this?

BETHANIA: Well, Airbnb certainly hasn’t given up on sponsorship. Nor have they publicly criticized the Chinese government’s human rights policies in Xinjiang as Airbnb has been urged to do by these human rights groups. But here is the situation Airbnb is facing: Airbnb is sort of between a rock and a hard place because if they continue to operate in Xinjiang, which is certainly what the Chinese government wants, Airbnb will continue to face. high regulatory risk from a US legal perspective, and they’re also going to have high moral and reputational risk. However, if they pull out of Xinjiang, there is a real possibility that the Chinese government and even the Chinese people will react very badly to that and they will suffer, you know, a loss of income.

NIALA: Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a Chinese journalist at Axios, and she also has all of these reporting online. Go to to read this. Thank you Bethany.

BETHANIA: Thank you very much. Niala.

NIALA: One Disclosure for our auditors: An Airbnb executive sits on the Axios board of directors.

In 15 seconds, the new online retail layaway.

[ad break]

NIALA: Welcome to Axios today! I am Niala Boodhoo.

If you shopped online yesterday for Cyber ​​Monday, you may have seen the ‘buy now, pay later’ option that allows you to spread purchases over a long period of time without the need for a credit card. Erica Pandey, Axios business reporter, has written about these new virtual IOUs and is here to educate us. Erica, this is a big trend in online shopping right now, are a lot of people using it?

ERICA: I saw the option everywhere while shopping online. And then I realized that was a huge trend because Adobe Analytics just released new data that shows the number of purchases made by Americans using these buy now, pay more options. late ”increased 438% between November 2019 and November 2021. So this thing is really exploding.

NIALA: So, is it like the layaways I saw in department stores as a kid that had downsides? To the right?

ERICA: Okay, the main downside is that it can encourage people to fund purchases they can’t afford. A survey of loan trees recently found that two-thirds of Americans said they spend more money using “buy now, pay later” apps and will have more.

NIALA: But to be fair, you don’t pay interest on these either. To the right?

ERICA: Exactly. And that is why they have gained popularity. This is because you only pay the same price in four installments.

NIALA: Happy shopping, Erica!

ERICA: Happy shopping, Niala.

NIALA: Okay, it’s actually Giving Tuesday – a day that’s meant to be an antidote to all of that shopping. Brett Shulman is the co-founder and CEO of the fast and casual restaurant chain CAVA. He told me: Philanthropy is how the business presents itself to the communities in which it is located.

BRETT SHULMAN: We have donated over $ 150,000 this year and served over 50,000 free meals to the communities we have opened. We, we are now operating in 160 communities and as you noted it is increasing week by week, to have an impact locally with our food and with our service. We love to talk about our spirit of generosity and, truly in a, in a world with a lot of uncertainty, the ability to come and engage with our team and for our team to deliver a bit of positivity and kindness can have. a very big impact. We like to say that it doesn’t hurt to be nice.

NIALA: But it costs, uh, things to be, like you talk about donating food or your employees time, it’s part of your bottom line. How do you assess that cost, especially when you think about how tight the margins are in your industry and how tough the economic conditions are right now?

BRETT: Yes, I don’t think giving should be considered an expense or a tax deduction. To the right? It’s an investment in, in our team, in our guests, in positive emotions, in gratitude, and in relationship building and strengthening those relationships because what you give makes you more.

NIALA: You can hear the whole conversation from an Axios event I’m doing this afternoon for Giving Tuesday. I will tweet the link and include information in our issue notes if you want to go online.

That’s all we have for you today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo – thanks for listening – stay safe and we’ll see you here tomorrow morning.

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