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US chipmaker Intel is currently facing mounting criticism in China after telling its suppliers not to source products or labor from the northwestern region of Xinjiang. This month, the company sent a letter to its suppliers asking them not to use delivery or procure goods and services sourced from the country’s far western region.

This sparked a backlash in China from state and social media, with calls for a boycott of the company’s products. Following this, in a Chinese-language statement on Thursday on its official WeChat account, Intel said that its commitment to avoid supply chains from Xinjiang was an expression of compliance with US law rather than a statement of its position on the issue.

“We apologize for the trouble caused to our respected Chinese customers, partners, and the public. Intel is committed to becoming a trusted technology partner and accelerating joint development with China,” Intel said, reports Al Jazeera.

Intel’s apology comes after social media users seized on the issue to criticize the US firm this week. The lead singer of TFBoys — one of China’s most popular boy bands — Wang Junkai said it would terminate all partnerships with the US company immediately, according to a statement by his studio Wednesday as per Bloomberg. The studio said it had repeatedly asked Intel to “express a correct stance,” but the chipmaker had yet to respond.

In a statement on its social media account, the company said the reference to Xinjiang in a letter sent to suppliers was aimed at complying with US regulations. The letter caused concerns among our cherished Chinese partners, which we deeply regret, said an Intel statement. It said the mention of Xinjiang referred to the need to comply with regulations, not a company position.

Intel said earlier it had been “required to ensure that its supply chain does not use any labor or source goods or services from the Xinjiang region,” following restrictions imposed by “multiple governments,” reports Reuters.

This comes after the US Senate unanimously voted to make the United States the first to ban virtually all imports from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labor concerns. This is one of three measures that has received overwhelming backing amid Washington’s push against Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs Muslim minority.

Under the ‘Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act’ or the Uyghur measure, all goods come from Xinjiang. The Chinese government has set up a vast network of detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, presumed to have been made with forced labor.

However, China has repeatedly denied the claims.

China’s reaction 

The Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party, called Intel’s statement “absurd,” adding that the company – which earned 26 percent of its total revenues from China in 2020 – was “biting the hand that feeds it.”

In its editorial, the newspaper said that Intel had become a typical “cannon” that opened verbal fire upon China among the US business community.

“What we need to do is to make it increasingly expensive for companies to offend China, so their losses outweigh their gains,” the newspaper said.

On China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblog service, singer Karry Wang said he would no longer serve as brand ambassador for Intel, adding in a statement that “national interests exceed everything.”

Many Weibo users also called on Chinese citizens to boycott Intel, with one posting under the name “Old Catalan” saying, “Must resist, do not buy!”

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