Intel has apologized for the ban on the use of Xinjiang components in response to attacks by Chinese nationalist media on the policy, becoming the latest multinational to be embroiled in China’s battle with the United States over human rights issues.
The episode quickly became one of the most talked about topics online in China, with netizens on Weibo like Twitter calling on the government to hit Intel with fines and other punishments.
The controversy erupted after Intel sent a year-end letter to suppliers stating that components made in China’s northwest Xinjiang region should not be used in its chips. The message attracted the attention of the nationalist media Guancha.
In a post in Chinese on social media, Intel said it wanted to “clarify” that the ban was only to comply with US law and not its “own intention or position.”
“We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners and the public,” added Intel.
The statement was trending on Weibo and had been viewed 190 million times as of Thursday afternoon.
As tensions between the west and China rise, multinationals are finding it harder to avoid politics, and Beijing’s “re-education” of one million Uighur Muslims in western Xinjiang is a particular tipping point. .
State media have fostered nationalist opposition to brands such as Nike and H&M that expressed concerns about Xinjiang or vowed to eliminate the use of forced labor in the region from their supply chains.
Intel told the Financial Times that its Chinese statement was intended to “address concerns raised by our shareholders there regarding how we communicate certain legal and policy requirements with our global supplier network.” He added that he will continue to comply with US laws.
“This company must comply with US laws, but it still wants to make money in China, we cannot replace them at this time, but we can fine them,” said a Weibo commenter. “We will fine billions at a time and use the money for R&D.”
Intel got a quarter of its revenue from customers in China last year and has more than 10,000 employees in the country. It has recently moved to downsize its operations in China by selling a memory chip factory to a South Korean chipmaker.
China’s nationalist tabloid Global Times accused Intel of “biting the hand that feeds it.” “What we have to do is make it increasingly expensive for companies to offend China,” he said in an editorial.
Chinese celebrities have also been forced to quickly cut ties with offending companies to avoid trouble from fans and the Communist Party’s propaganda ministry.
On Wednesday, the studio of Wang Junkai, lead singer of one of China’s biggest boy bands, announced that it would sever all ties with the American chipmaker, adding that it had repeatedly urged the company to publicly express a ” correct position “and that” the national interest triumphs over all. “
Wang had been an Intel brand ambassador before the dispute.